Recording Industry Sues AI Startups Citing Mass Infringement

A group that includes the world’s three largest music labels — Sony, Universal and Warner — are backing federal lawsuits brought by the Recording Industry Association of America against AI companies Suno and Udio. Claiming “mass infringement,” the suits allege the startups scraped libraries of copyrighted songs to train models that power generative audio products allowing consumers to create music using text prompts. Suno is based in Massachusetts while Udio and its parent Uncharted are headquartered in New York, with the actions filed earlier this week in their respective states.

The suits are “a sign of an intensifying fight between creative industries and Silicon Valley over emerging technologies that are transforming how consumers interact with art,” writes The Wall Street Journal, which says the plaintiffs seek declaratory relief stating copyright infringement, injunctions against future use of the material “and damages, including as much as $150,000 per work infringed.”

The lawsuits allege services offered by the startups “have produced vocals RIAA says are indistinguishable from famous artists, including Lin-Manuel Miranda, Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson and ABBA,” The Wall Street Journal reports, listing generative “sound-a-likes of recordings” from The Temptations, Green Day, Mariah Carey, Chuck Berry and James Brown.

Suno CEO Mikey Shulman issued a statement quoted in The New York Times claiming the company’s tech “is designed to generate completely new outputs, not to memorize and regurgitate pre-existing content” and that it doesn’t allow users to prompt using artists’ names.

The RIAA countered that “Suno continues to dodge the basic question: What sound recordings have they illegally copied?,” according to the WSJ, which said “representatives for Udio did not respond to requests for comment.”

The complaints describe how the plaintiffs were able to prompt Suno into generating what were described as identifiable copies of copyrighted works. “One example provided in the lawsuit describes how the labels generated songs extremely similar to Chuck Berry’s 1958 rock hit ‘Johnny B. Goode’ in Suno by using prompts like ‘1950s rock and roll, rhythm & blues, 12 bar blues, rockabilly, energetic male vocalist, singer guitarist,’ along with snippets of the song’s lyrics,” Wired reports.

“The music community has embraced AI and we are already partnering and collaborating with responsible developers to build sustainable AI tools centered on human creativity that put artists and songwriters in charge,” RIAA Chairman and CEO Mitch Glazier said in a statement.

One company striving to fit into that category emerged from stealth this week. Created by Humans “aims to bypass expensive legal battles by offering a marketplace where creators can license their intellectual property directly to LLMs,” TechCrunch reports.

The RIAA Versus AI, Explained, The Verge, 6/26/24
YouTube Reportedly Wants to Pay Record Labels to Use Their Songs for AI Training, Engadget, 6/27/24

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