Amazon Allegedly Uses AI to Mimic Actors’ Voices in Road House Remake

A lawsuit has been filed against Amazon over claims of copyright infringement related to the remake of the 1989 film, ‘Road House’, a Patrick Swayze starer. The original film’s writer, R. Lance Hill, asserts that Amazon and MGM Studios unlawfully used AI to mimic actors’ voices so as to complete the film before the copyright expired.

Hill had applied to the US Copyright Office in November 2021 to reclaim his original screenplay rights, which were the foundation of the new film. Although the rights were possessed by Amazon Studios after it acquired MGM, these were set to run out in November 2023. He claims that when they expired, he would regain the rights.

The lawsuit claims that despite this pending transfer of rights, Amazon Studios rushed to complete the film before the copyright expired. Due to a strike by the actors, Hill claims that AI was utilized by Amazon to “duplicate the voices” of the 2024 remake’s actors. This action supposedly violated the agreement between the union and major studios, including Amazon.

The case is further complex by the fact Hill had previously signed a “work-made-for-hire” agreement with the original producer, United Artists. Essentially, this means that the studio that employed the writer would be the owner and copyright holder of the work. Hill dismissed this stipulation as a standard contract practice.

The lawsuit aims to prevent the film’s release, scheduled to premiere at SXSW on March 8th before it is streamed exclusively on Prime Video from March 21. Amazon has refuted these allegations, stating to The Verge that filmmakers were expressly instructed not to use AI, and did so only in the early phases of the film. They were then asked to remove any AI or non-SAG AFTRA actors for the final cut. The company further denies any other claims and believes its copyright on the original ‘Road House’ has not yet expired.