Tuesday, March 5

Hollywood Agency partners with tech startup for AI protection

Talent agency WME on Tuesday announced a partnership with technology company Vermillio that it hopes will protect its clients from misuse of their likeness using artificial intelligence technology.

Vermillio created a platform, Trace ID, that could protect WME clients from having their image and intellectual property stolen by using AI technology to track images. The partnership will also look at ways to use technology to allow customers to monetize their likeness and image themselves.

The use of AI and how to protect these assets was a major point of contention during last year’s actors’ strike. Even after ratifying an agreement with SAG-AFTRA, the actors’ union, some performers remained dissatisfied with AI protections. The contract, for example, does not prohibit studios from filling screens with “synthetic knockoffs,” which can be created using AI by merging recognizable features of real actors to make a character.

AI-generated images are also proliferating online, such as the fake sexually explicit images of Taylor Swift that appeared online last week.

WME said its main concern was protecting its customers.

“We’ve been working on this for some time to try to resolve this issue so that our customers have protections in place to at least begin to address what is clearly a widespread problem,” said Chris Jacquemin, head of digital strategies at WME.

Deepfakes involving A-list actors and artists have been a problem for years. The relatively recent emergence of more sophisticated AI, however, has exacerbated the problem. This month, a fake ad for cookware maker Le Creuset appeared on Facebook. It featured what was purported to be Ms. Swift offering free kitchen utensils in exchange for users’ personal information. Neither Ms. Swift nor Le Creuset participated in the promotion.

“You have no real ability to stop it other than by falling into it manually,” Mr. Jacquemin said of this type of scam. “Vermillio is starting to automate this process.”

WME customers will now transmit their digital identification data to Vermillio to be recorded and protected on the blockchain. Vermillio said it would then be able to track and authenticate customer images that appear online. These images could then either be deleted or customers could decide to request payment. Vermillio would receive a share of this income.

WME and Vermillio said the partnership could also help pay artists if studios wanted to, for example, use AI to have someone’s voice translate content into other languages.

Dan Neely, the entrepreneur behind Vermillio, said: “With this authenticity, talent can offer fans the new entertainment experiences they want while protecting and empowering themselves. »