Recording Labels Sue Start-Ups Over AI-Generated Music

Major music labels have sued two artificial intelligence (AI) start-ups over alleged copyright infringement, in the latest case that may provide a legal test for generative AI companies’ business models.

The labels, including Sony Music Group, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group say start-ups Suno and Udio have committed copyright infringement on an “almost unimaginable scale”.

The companies, represented by the Recording Industry Association of America, are seeking compensation of up to $150,000 (£118,000) per work infringed.

“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,” said RIAA chair and chief executive Mitch Glazier.

Image credit: Unsplash

Copycat works

The suits were filed against Suno in federal court in Massachusetts and against Udio parent company Uncharted Inc in New York federal court.

The music companies said they were able to use both services to generate songs extremely close to copyrighted works such as Chuck Berry’s 1958 “Johnny B. Goode” using prompts and snippets of the song’s lyrics.

In the filing against Suno the companies provided side-by-side transcriptions of Berry’s song and an AI-generated one and said the two could only be so close to one anther if Suno had trained its AI processes on the original work.

The Udio lawsuit provided examples of generated pieces resembling Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” and said such soundalikes have already caught public attention.

RIAA chief legal officer Ken Doroshow said the two start-ups were trying to conceal “the full scope of their infringement”.

The Suno lawsuit says the company did not deny using copyrighted works in training but said training data was “confidential business information”.

‘Transformative’

Suno chief executive Mikey Schulman said the company’s technology was “transformative” and did not “regurgitate pre-existing content”.

“That is why we don’t allow user prompts that reference specific artists,” he said, accusing the music companies of refusing to engage in a “good-faith discussion”.

In April some 200 music artists called for an end to “predatory” use of AI to “steal artists’ voices and likenesses”, which they said was being used to “violate creators’ rights, and destroy the music ecosystem”.

AI companies often claim their products have the right to use copyrighted content under fair-use provisions, but such claims have yet to be tested in court.

Some AI firms have begun reaching licensing deals with content providers such as News Corp as a way to mitigate legal claims.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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