ControversyMusic IndustryTech

The major record companies and the RIAA have sued two music-generating AI companies for “mass infringement” of copyright.

If you’ve been messing around with AI programs that generate pretty realistic sounding material, you’ll have come across Suno and Udio, two of the best platforms for this kind of thing. I’ve messed around with both and the only thing I can say is wow.

But AI is not inherently intelligent. It merely learns to mimic sounds and styles based on the music data on which it is trained. And that music data is real music made by real humans. It’s copyrighted intellectual property. And it looks like both Suno and Udio have trained their models without asking permission of those who own that music data.

The three major labels are rightly pissed. Univeral, Sony, and Warner have teamed up with the Recording Industry Association of America to sue Suno and Udio for copyright infringement “on a massive scale.” In the suit, they want Suno and Udio to cut it out and pay statutory damages of $150,000 per song infringed plus legal damages.

I quote:

“Building and operating [these services] requires at the outset copying and ingesting massive amounts of data to ‘train’ a software ‘model’ to generate outputs,” is how one section of the filings laud this out. This process involved copying decades worth of the world’s most popular sound recordings and then ingesting those copies [to] generate outputs that imitate the qualities of genuine human sound recordings.”

The labels and the RIAA reject all claims that using music in this way constitutes “fair use” and that this is theft “on an almost unimaginable scale.” It claims that the impact on human creativity “will be “rapid and devastating” if something isn’t done NOW.

That $150,000 fine per song is a number that goes back to the days when labels sued people for illegally downloading some from Kazaa, Grokster, The Pirate Bay, and Limewire. How many songs are Suno and Udio alleged to have infringed? No idea, but experiments by the RIAA and others seem so suggest a lot. Thousands of songs, even. And at $150K per, wow…

Suno CEO Mikey Shulman responded this way:

“Suno’s mission is to make it possible for everyone to make music. Our technology is transformative; it is designed to generate completely new outputs, not to memorize and regurgitate pre-existing content. That is why we don’t allow user prompts that reference specific artists. We would have been happy to explain this to the corporate record labels that filed this lawsuit (and in fact, we tried to do so), but instead of entertaining a good faith discussion, they’ve reverted to their old lawyer-led playbook.”

“Suno is built for new music, new uses, and new musicians. We prize originality.”

This is a watershed moment in the development of AI and music. Read more here and here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38542 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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