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Major music labels sue AI startups over copyright infringement

By AFP - Jun 27,2024 - Last updated at Jun 27,2024

The work of Michael Buble is among the songs which record companies say have been illegally used by music AI startups Suno and Udio to train their generative AI engines (AFP photo)

SAN FRANCISCO — Some of the world’s major music labels are suing music generation services Suno and Udio, accusing the startups of violating the copyrights of top artists to train their generative AI engines without permission.

Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Records, Capitol Records and others — who filed the copyright infringement suits on Monday in federal courts in Boston and New York — are seeking damages of up to $150,000 per song or shares of the companies’ profits.

“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,” Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) chief executive Mitch Glazier said in a statement.

Examples cited in the lawsuits included prompts using Suno’s service to churn out songs mimicking copyrighted works of Chuck Berry, James Brown, Michael Buble, ABBA, and others.

Suno and Udio did not respond to requests for comment.

Breaching ownership rights of people’s artistic creations to train generative AI models has been a flashpoint as the technology races to become more capable and, ultimately, more profitable.

The two lawsuits, one against each company, center on generative AI services that allow people to make songs using basic prompts.

Suno and Udio have been evasive about how they train their AI models, saying that is a guarded secret, according to the complaints.

Music publishers are collaborating with “responsible developers” to build AI tools that respect the works of artists, according to the head of the RIAA, which announced the lawsuits.

“Real music comes from real life and real people,” Black Music Action Coalition Chief Executive Willie “Prophet” Stiggers said in the release.

“It is vital that artists and songwriters are in charge of their own work, story, and message.”

In April, hundreds of artists and songwriters including Billie Eilish, Smokey Robinson and the estate of Frank Sinatra signed an open letter urging protections against what they called an “assault on human creativity” posed by artificial intelligence.

“We must protect against the predatory use of AI to steal professional artists’ voices and likenesses, violate creators’ rights, and destroy the music ecosystem,” read the letter, submitted by the non-profit Artist Rights Alliance.

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