Amazon’s Road House reboot is accused of copyright infringement — and AI voice cloning

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The screenwriter of the 1989 action film Road House is suing MGM Studios and its owner Amazon Studios, accusing them of copyright infringement over the upcoming Road House remake, report the Los Angeles Times and The Hollywood Reporter. The lawsuit, filed on Tuesday in the U.S. Central District Court in Los Angeles, also alleges that Amazon Studios resorted to generative AI to clone actor’s voices in order to finish the Road House remake during last year’s Hollywood strikes, which largely shut down film production.

In the complaint, screenwriter R. Lance Hill reportedly states that he filed a petition with the US Copyright Office in November 2021 to reclaim the rights for the screenplay (which both the original Road House and Amazon Studios reboot is based on). At that point, Amazon would have owned the rights to Road House due to the tech giant’s acquisition of MGM’s film library, but the tech giant’s claim on the work was set to expire in November 2023.

But according to THR, Hill’s original deal with United Artists (which secured the rights to the 1986 screenplay before being later acquired by MGM Studios) is defined as a “work-made-for-hire”. The term, according to the US Copyright Office, means that party that hired an individual to create work is both the owner and copyright holder of that work.

Hill alleges that the work-for-hire clause was merely boilerplate, and that Amazon ignored his copyright claims and rushed production of the remake, even taking “extreme measures” such as using generative AI. The lawsuit is seeking a court order to block the release of the film, which is scheduled to premiere on the opening night of SXSW on March 8th and stream on Prime Video on March 21st. 

Amazon MGM Studios categorically denied using AI to replace or recreate actors’ voices in statements to The Verge, with spokesperson Jenna Klein telling us that “the studio expressly instructed the filmmakers to NOT use AI in this movie.”

“If at any time AI was utilized, it would have been by the filmmakers (while editing early cuts of the film)”

“If at any time AI was utilized, it would have been by the filmmakers (while editing early cuts of the film) and not the studio as they controlled the editorial,” Klein wrote, adding that filmmakers were instructed to remove any “AI or non-SAG AFTRA actors” when finishing the film.

Amazon also said that “numerous allegations” in the lawsuit are “categorically false,” and that the company doesn’t believe its copyright has effectively expired on Road House.

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