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Amazon accused of using AI to ‘replicate the voices’ of actors in Road House remake

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Amazon is being sued by the writer of the original 1989 Patrick Swayze version of the film Road House over alleged copyright infringement in the movie’s remake, The Los Angeles Times has reported. Screenwriter R. Lance Hill accuses Amazon and MGM Studios of using AI to clone actors’ voices in the new production in order to finish it before the copyright expired.

Hill said he filed a petition with the US Copyright Office in November 2021 to reclaim the rights to his original screenplay, which forms the basis of the new film. At that point, the rights were owned by Amazon Studios, as part of its acquisition of MGM, but were set to expire in November 2023. Hill alleges that once that happened, the rights would revert back to him.

According to the lawsuit, Amazon Studios rushed ahead with the project anyway in order to finish it before the copyright deadline. Since it was stymied by the actor’s strike, Hill alleges Amazon used AI to “replicate the voices” of the actors who worked in the 2024 remake. Such use violated the terms of the deal struck between the union and major studios including Amazon.

The claim is complicated by the fact that Hill signed a “work-made-for-hire” deal with the original producer, United Artists. That effectively means that the studio hiring the writer would be both the owner and copyright holder of the work. Hill, however, dismissed that as “boilerplate” typically used in contracts.

The lawsuit seeks to block the release of the film, set to bow at SXSW on March 8th before (controversially) heading direct to streaming on Prime Video on March 21.

Amazon denies the claims, with a spokesperson telling The Verge that “the studio expressly instructed the filmmakers to NOT use AI in this movie.” It added that if AI was utilized, it was only done in early versions of the films. Later on, filmmakers were told to remove any “AI or non-SAG AFTRA actors” for the final version. It added that other allegations are “categorically false” and that it believes its copyright on the original Road House has yet to expire.

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