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World's biggest music labels sue AI song-generators for copyright infringement

World's biggest music labels sue AI song-generators for copyright infringement - pictured: Billie Eilish, who signed an open letter regarding the “predatory” use of AI
World's biggest music labels sue AI song-generators for copyright infringement - pictured: Billie Eilish, who signed an open letter regarding the “predatory” use of AI Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By David MouriquandAP
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The landmark case sees Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Warner Records suing AI startups Suno and Udio over alleged copyright infringement. It comes months after more than 200 artists signed an open letter calling for the “predatory” use of AI in the music industry to be stopped.

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Artificial intelligence has been a heated topic of conversation in the music industry, with debates ranging from the creative possibilities of the new technology to concerns around its legality.

The heat just got turned up a notch, as some of the world's biggest record labels are suing two AI start-ups, Suno and Udio, over alleged copyright infringement. The landmark case alleges that the startups are exploiting on an "almost unimaginable scale" the recorded works of artists.

The Recording Industry Association of America announced the lawsuits yesterday (Monday 24 June) brought by labels including Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Warner Records.

The "motive is brazenly commercial and threatens to displace the genuine human artistry that is at the heart of copyright protection", the record labels said in the lawsuits, adding that there was nothing about AI that excused the firms from "playing by the rules". They warned that the "wholesale theft" of the recordings threatened "the entire music ecosystem".

They claim Suno and Udio’s software steals music to "spit out" similar work and ask for compensation of $150,000 (approx. €140,000) per work.

One case was filed in federal court in Boston against Suno AI, and the other in New York against Uncharted Labs, the developer of Udio AI.

Suno AI CEO Mikey Shulman said in an emailed statement that the technology is “designed to generate completely new outputs, not to memorize and regurgitate pre-existing content” and doesn't allow users to reference specific artists.

Shulman said his Cambridge, Massachusetts-based startup tried to explain this to labels “but instead of entertaining a good faith discussion, they’ve reverted to their old lawyer-led playbook.”

Udio has yet to issue any comment.

RIAA Chairman and CEO Mitch Glazier said in a written statement that the music industry is already collaborating with responsible AI developers but said that "unlicensed services like Suno and Udio that claim it’s ‘fair’ to copy an artist’s life’s work and exploit it for their own profit without consent or pay set back the promise of genuinely innovative AI for us all.”

In March, Tennessee became the first US state to pass legislation to protect songwriters, performers and other music industry professionals against the potential dangers of artificial intelligence. The bill goes into effect on 1 July.

At the time, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee said: “Artists have intellectual property. They have gifts. They have a uniqueness that is theirs and theirs alone, certainly not artificial intelligence.”

The goal is to ensure that AI tools cannot replicate an artist’s voice without their consent, something echoed a month later when more than 200 artists signed an open letter submitted by the Artist Rights Alliance calling on AI tech companies, developers and platforms to stop using AI to infringe upon and devalue the rights of human artists.

Artists like Stevie Wonder, Billie Eilish, Robert Smith and Nicki Minaj signed the letter calling for the “predatory” use of AI in the music industry to be stopped.

The letter, while acknowledging the creative possibilities of new AI technology, stated: “Make no mistake: we believe that, when used responsibly, AI has enormous potential to advance human creativity and in a manner that enables the development and growth of new and exciting experiences for music fans everywhere.”

“Unfortunately, some platforms and developers are employing AI to sabotage creativity and undermine artists, songwriters, musicians and rightsholders. When used irresponsibly, AI poses enormous threats to our ability to protect our privacy, our identities, our music and our livelihoods.”

“Unchecked, AI will set in motion a race to the bottom that will degrade the value of our work and prevent us from being fairly compensated for it,” the letter continues. “This assault on human creativity must be stopped. We must protect against the predatory use of AI to steal professional artists’ voices and likenesses, violate creators’ rights, and destroy the music ecosystem.”

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