Deepfake Phenomenon Raises Legal Concerns Within the Industry

A growing trend of generating AI supported fake porn videos is causing a stir on many streaming sites and networks based on contents uploaded by potentially anonymous users. Faces of celebrities and unwilling thirds can now be inserted in porn movies. The idea might seem funny at first but what if your own face gets abused like that? The legal side is quite complicated. Would there be pathways to stop such content from spreading?
What started out as a geeky contest on a Reddit forum for fake porn is now spreading and raising the eyebrows of several high-level industry attorneys. For weeks now fake celebrity porn flicks created by AI supported users have created a new trend called deepfake. The possibilities of the new technology are limitless: Emma Watson in porn, your wife or husband in »House of Cards«, your college crush stripping. In essence: With the newest artificial intelligence software, the face of any person can now be digitally inserted in porn clips with stunning results.
Big tube sites like PornHub have already taken measures to identify and ban AI generated material. But the enthusiasts only got started. A new Reddit forum is offering to generate custom-made porn videos of any person. For good money of course. Whoever is behind the offer knows that the legal waters are muddy there as payment is only accepted in Bitcoin.

The trend is likely to continue as the software required to do the videos is freely shared. It is called FakeApp and can be downloaded via an official torrent file.

The legal side of it is basically unclear. Unlike revenge porn, the nude content is not authentic and without a privacy violation, it can’t be fought the way revenge porn got tackled. Wired magazine made it absolutely clear: »You can’t sue someone for exposing the intimate details of your life when it’s not your life they’re exposing.«

The only legal way to stop deepfake porn seems to be through suing on grounds of copyright violations. The creators of the underlying porn clip could sue for copyright infringement. In some states and countries, people whose face was inserted into a porn video could sue on grounds of violations of the person’s »right of publicity« concerning »name, image and likeness«. These laws differ though from country to country.

These videos are most certainly illegal. And mainstream porn sites might find ways to ban them. But the Electronic Frontier Foundation f. ex. seems skeptical about stopping the deepfake results from spreading.


Eric Goldman, a law professor at Santa Clara University put it this way: »It’s almost impossible to erase a video once it’s been published to the internet. If you’re looking for the magic wand that can erase that video permanently, it probably doesn’t exist.«



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