The Truth About Deepfakes: Legal Expert Weighs In on Controversial A.I. Technology

Deepfake videos (aka deep fakes) use something called a “generative adversarial network” and artificial intelligence to superimpose faces over existing videos with ultra-realistic results. Yesterday, we shared some incredible deepfakes from the YouTubers at Ctrl Shift Face who essentially re-cast Sylvester Stallone as the T-800 in Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

Related Article: Deepfake Technology Recasts Sly Stallone as the Lead in TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY

While most people who saw the videos were in the “Whoa, that’s cool!” camp, some readers foresee the potentially nefarious possibilities for this technology. “Are deepfakes even legal?” many wondered. What if someone uses deepfake technology to create blackmail or propaganda? What if someone’s likeness is incorporated into pornography?

It’s often the case the technology accelerates faster than our ability to govern it, but those unwillingly appropriated into deepfakes do have recourse. Rory Lynch is a reputation and privacy lawyer from Vardags with particular expertise in social media law. Here’s what people playing with deepfakes (and those potentially harmed by them) need to know:

“Those who are the victims of a deep fake have potentially a number of legal causes of action. In regard to intellectual property rights, there could be a claim if the victim owns (or can acquire) the copyright in the image used. Whoever took the photo will normally own the copyright. Equally, if the image was used to sell a product, this could constitute ‘passing off’ (which Rihanna successfully argued when Top Shop featured her image on a t-shirt without her permission).

“Also, if the photos used have been hacked or are intimate, this could constitute theft and misuse of private information. Another legal option could be defamation, if right-thinking members of society think less of a person as a result of the deep fake (for example, if they think it is real or officially sanctioned).

“Finally, harassment and malicious online communication laws may also come into play, and these can lead to criminal prosecution. The impact could be widespread if the deep fake goes viral, and damages for defamation in the US can be substantial, sometimes in the millions of dollars. Therefore, those who are considering creating a deep fake, especially of a prominent person, should exercise extreme caution. If you are a high-profile victim, you should contact your lawyer as soon as possible in order to stem the damage.”

What do you think about deepfake technology? Entertaining as fuck, potential menace, or both? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram! You can also carry on the convo with me personally on Twitter @josh_millican.

Written by Josh Millican

Josh Millican is the Editor in Chief at Dread Central.

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