Is that you? Deep dive into deepfakes part 3: Recent examples, tips and tricks

Dean Gerakiteys, Natalie Coulton
12 May 2023
Time to read: 2.5 minutes

While they may seem complex, and they do certainly present risks to businesses and individuals, there are some key steps that can be taken to spot and circumvent the potential danger of deepfakes.

In the first article of this three-part series we took a look at what deepfakes are and canvassed some of the ways they have been used. In the second instalment, we examined the legal and regulatory framework which currently applies to deepfakes, both in Australia and overseas, and explored some of the legal issues which may arise in this space.

In this final article in the series, we will touch on a few recent examples, before providing some practical tips for businesses and brands about how they can help protect themselves from non-consensual deepfakes.

Did Bruce Willis actually sell the rights to his face?

Returning to the headline case from our first article, a massive media circus emerged following the appearance of Bruce Willis in a recent advertisement for Russian telecommunications operator Megafon after the actor had announced his retirement from acting in March last year. Even more surprising than Willis's return to the screen were the headlines which seemed to indicate Willis had in fact sold the rights to his face to a deepfake company called Deepcake, who had generated the deepfake "digital twin" of the Hollywood heavyweight.

Subsequent clarification from Willis's team served to highlight the complexities and uncertainties that surround this controversial application of AI technology. One question that remains is what precisely has Willis agreed to and what potential other uses could his digital twin be put to? Both Deepcake and Willis's team have confirmed that the actor has not sold the rights to his face to the deepfake producer. Rather, Deepcake claims to have been given Willis's consent to the creation of his deepfake twin and the various materials from which it drew the information base used to create the version of Bruce Willis which appears in the Megafon ad; however it appears that there is no agreement between the company and Willis himself.

This raises the question: who owns the rights to the digital twin?

Both the actor's media representatives and the deepfake generators have subsequently confirmed that all the rights in both his image and the digital twin belong exclusively to Bruce Willis, with the company neither retaining nor gaining any rights in its deepfake. It has further been revealed that Deepcake was not aware of the contractual arrangements between Megafon and Willis.

Tips and tricks for businesses

While the technology behind deepfakes has developed rapidly and the outputs are now quite convincing, there are still a few key tell-tale signs that you are looking at a fake, rather than an original piece of media. When it comes to faces, some of the key give aways are:

  • Errors around the ears or the edges of the face;
  • Foreheads which appear unnaturally flat or which have oddly positioned wrinkles;
  • Facial expressions which do not match the tone of what is being said; and
  • Mouth movements which do not match what is being said or a mismatch between the mouth movements and the words being spoken.

When it comes to vocal deepfakes (either with images or just as a sound recording), some key give aways are:

  • odd pronunciation of words or phrases;
  • use of words or phrases which are not characteristic for the speaker;
  • comments which seem out of character for the person; and
  • mismatches in the flow of the sound, caused by piecing together sounds which do not ordinarily occur together in normal speech patterns.

Finally, when it comes to spotting a deepfaked document, some key elements to check are:

  • the format of the document (if it is an image, ask for the native file, not a PDF);
  • check any payment details are correct by other means (including over the phone);
  • where available, check the metadata for the file; and
  • make sure all staff know how and when to escalate documents which they suspect are not legitimate.

Fake it 'til you make it

Deepfakes remain an area of AI technology development with the potential for both good and evil applications. What is clear, is that stories such as Bruce Willis' are only likely to increase, as more and more turn to this exciting technology to explore what can be achieved. Deepfakes are not, however, only a problem for high profile individuals, and businesses and individuals should also become familiar with some of the easy ways to spot a deepfake. Please contact Clayton Utz if you would like any assistance or advice relating to deepfake technology and its application.

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Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular transactions or on matters of interest arising from this communication. Persons listed may not be admitted in all States and Territories.