Recently, it has come to light that the screenwriter of the 1989 action film Road House, R. Lance Hill, is suing MGM Studios and Amazon Studios for copyright infringement over the upcoming Road House remake. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. Central District Court in Los Angeles, alleges that Amazon Studios used generative AI to clone actor’s voices in order to finish the film during last year’s Hollywood strikes. Hill claims that he filed a petition with the US Copyright Office in November 2021 to reclaim the rights to the screenplay, as both the original Road House and the remake are based on his work.

Hill’s original deal with United Artists, which later acquired by MGM Studios, was defined as a “work-made-for-hire.” According to the US Copyright Office, this means that the party that hired an individual to create the work is the owner and copyright holder. Hill argues that this clause was merely boilerplate and that Amazon ignored his copyright claims and rushed production of the remake using generative AI. The lawsuit seeks to block the release of the film, scheduled to premiere at SXSW on March 8th and stream on Prime Video on March 21st.

Amazon MGM Studios has denied using AI to replace or recreate actors’ voices in the film. Spokesperson Jenna Klein stated that the studio instructed the filmmakers not to use AI, and any utilization of AI would have been done by the filmmakers themselves, not the studio. Klein also mentioned that the filmmakers were instructed to remove any AI or non-SAG AFTRA actors when finishing the film.

This lawsuit raises important questions about copyright ownership in the film industry and the use of generative AI in production. If Hill is successful in blocking the release of the film, it could set a precedent for future cases involving similar copyright disputes. The outcome of this lawsuit will likely have significant implications for how studios approach intellectual property rights and the use of AI technology in their production processes.

The lawsuit filed by R. Lance Hill against Amazon Studios and MGM Studios highlights the complex legal issues surrounding copyright ownership and the use of generative AI in film production. It will be interesting to see how this case unfolds and what impact it will have on the future of the entertainment industry. Regardless of the outcome, it serves as a reminder of the importance of respecting creators’ rights and ensuring that intellectual property is protected in an increasingly digital world.

Tech

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