Sony Music Warns AI Companies on ‘Unauthorized’ Content Use

Sony Music Warning to AI Companies Over Unauthorized Content Usage

May 20, 2024 – In a bold move to protect its intellectual property rights, Sony Music Group (SMG) has issued stern warnings to over 700 artificial intelligence (AI) companies and music streaming platforms, cautioning them against using its content to train AI models without explicit permission. The letters, obtained by multiple news outlets, underscore the growing concern within the music industry about the potential misuse of copyrighted material by AI developers.

SMG, which represents a star-studded roster of artists including Beyonc√©, Adele, Lil Nas X, and Celine Dion, asserts that the unauthorized use of its content, such as audio recordings, musical compositions, lyrics, and album artwork, for the “training, development or commercialization of AI systems” infringes upon the company's and its artists' rights. The music giant argues that such actions deprive them of control over their intellectual property and appropriate compensation.

We support artists and songwriters taking the lead in embracing new technologies in support of their art. However, that innovation must ensure that songwriters' and recording artists' rights, including copyrights, are respected.

– Sony Music

The move comes amidst growing concerns within the music industry about the rapid advancement of generative AI technologies and their potential to create deepfakes, clones, and derivative works without proper licensing or compensation to the original artists. Sony Music has already issued close to 10,000 takedown notices for unauthorized deepfakes of its artists, highlighting the scale of the problem.

Last year, Universal Music Group (UMG) filed a lawsuit against AI startup Anthropic, alleging that the company's AI models were trained on copyrighted song lyrics without permission. Similarly, Warner Music Group has been vocal in advocating for legislation to protect artists' voices, images, and likenesses from unauthorized AI use.

AI and copyright infringement

The issue of AI and copyright infringement has been a topic of intense debate, with music companies arguing that the use of copyrighted material to train AI models should be licensed and compensated, while some AI developers claim it falls under fair use exemptions. However, recent developments, such as the Indian government's stance that AI developers must obtain permission to use copyrighted works for commercial purposes, indicate a growing consensus in favor of protecting creators' rights.

The European Union's proposed AI Act also aims to address this conflict by mandating that AI developers disclose any copyrighted material used to train “general-purpose” AI models and obtain authorization from rights holders unless exceptions apply.

Sony Music Group's warning letters have requested the AI companies to disclose details about any use of its songs to train AI systems, including how the content was accessed, the number of copies made, and the justification for their use. The recipients have been given a deadline to respond to SMG's inquiries, with the company emphasizing its commitment to enforcing its copyrights to the fullest extent permitted by law.

The music industry's concerns about AI extend beyond copyright issues, with some experts warning about the potential erosion of human artistry and the need for transparency in distinguishing between human-created and AI-generated works. Over 200 artists, including Katy Perry and Billie Eilish, have signed an open letter urging AI developers and tech companies to pledge not to use AI in ways that undermine human artistry.

Dennis Kooker, Sony Music's President of Global Digital Business, has been particularly vocal about the potential misuse of AI-synthesized voice technology. “In particular, we have serious concerns about the potential for AI-synthesized voice technology to be used at scale to cover or recreate artists' vocals,” Kooker stated during a speech in November 2022.

Kooker has advocated for a set of principles to guide the music industry's approach to generative AI, including:

Ensuring consent, compensation, and credit for artists whose works are used in AI training or products.
Confirming that copying music to train AI models is not considered fair use.
Preventing the cloning of artists' voices and likenesses without express permission.
Incentivizing accurate recordkeeping by AI platforms to enable rights enforcement.
Assuring transparency for consumers and artists regarding AI-generated content.

As the debate surrounding AI and intellectual property rights continues, Sony Music Group's proactive stance in defending its copyrights and its artists' interests sets a precedent for the music industry. It remains to be seen how AI companies will respond to these warnings and whether this will lead to a more collaborative approach in developing AI technologies that respect creators' rights and foster a thriving music ecosystem.

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