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AI vs. IP in the music industry

On Behalf of | May 16, 2023 | Copyright Law |

If you have been wondering when artists will start using artificial intelligence to generate pop music, stop wondering. AI music is here.

Creators have used AI platforms to generate both original songs and covers “sung” by the likes of Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Paul McCartney, the Weeknd and Ye. These tracks and videos have racked up millions of streams and views on social media.

Does AI respect copyright protections?

Naturally, this raises important questions about copyrights. AI creates material like photographs and songs based on existing material that it combs from the internet. Thus, though the songs an AI generates are technically original, they are also heavily based on copyrighted music. Then there is the fact that users are publishing music with highly realistic imitations of real artists’ voices without those artists’ knowledge or permission. As AI technology rapidly improves, it will likely become harder and harder for listeners to tell the difference between an AI-generated track “performed” by a big star and one from the actual artist.

Figuring out what to do

As often happens, technology has overtaken the law. American IP regulations are currently silent about whether an AI trained on copyrighted music created by human beings is violating those copyrights when it generates new music based on that learning. Of course, human songwriters also take inspiration from other people’s music, though at some point, “inspiration” crosses the line into plagiarism.

When it comes to AI training, IP attorneys who work in the music industry seem to be split. Some argue that Ai-generated songs based on learning from copyrighted materials should be allowed, while others are calling for a ban on such activity. In March, the U.S. Copyright Office took a first step into settling the dispute. In reaction to requests from Congress and the public, the office launched an initiative to examine how copyright law should treat AI-generated art and other content. The project will involve public listening sessions for all interested parties to participate in.

Protecting your work

It is not yet clear how much the law will move to regulate or curtail AI-generated music. Artists, songwriters and others will need sound legal advice to help protect their work from copyright violations.



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