Deepfake Bruce Willis promotes Russian telecoms company

Occurred: September 2021-October 2022

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A deepfake video of Bruce Willis promoting Russian telecoms company Megafon, apparently without his permission, led to a rumour that the actor had sold his rights for a 'digital twin' of him to be created. 

Russian company Deepcake used an artificial neural network to trained on Willis' appearances his 1990s films and imposed his image onto the face of a Russian actor. The firm told the BBC that it had worked closely with Willis' team on the advert, and boasted a quote from Willis on its website: 'I liked the precision of my character. It's a great opportunity for me to go back in time.' 

Several months later, Willis' agent denied media reports that the actor had sold the rights to his face after the Daily Mail reported that a deal had been struck between Willis and Deepcake. Deepcake also pushed back on the allegations, saying: 'The wording about rights is wrong… Bruce couldn't sell anyone any rights, they are his by default.'

The incident was seen to highlight the ease with which deepfakes can be made and used, It was also seen to raise questions about the nature and impacts of the sale of digital rights by celebrities and others, and the potential impact of rights sales on jobs in the entertainment industry.


Developer: Deepcake
Country: USA
Sector: Media/entertainment/sports/arts
Purpose: Promote telecoms company
Technology: Deepfake - audio, video; Generative adversarial network (GAN); Neural network; Deep learning; Machine learning
Issue: Employment
Transparency: Marketing