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Google and Universal Music are negotiating a groundbreaking deal to license artists’ voices and melodies for songs created using artificial intelligence (AI), Financial Times reports. The discussions are aimed at monetising the rise of ‘deepfake’ songs, which convincingly mimic established artists often without consent. Google’s experimental tool, MusicLM, recently gave a glimpse into the future of AI-generated music. While the tech giant holds a favourable position due to its existing partnerships with major record labels, this potential agreement signals a significant change in the music industry’s approach to AI. Reactions among musicians vary, with some embracing the use of AI for music creation, while others are frustrated by unsolicited AI songs featuring their voices.

  • Google and Universal Music are engaged in negotiations to license artists’ voices and melodies for AI-generated songs.
  • The music industry’s approach to AI is shifting from combating fake tracks to more cooperative efforts.
  • Legal complexities arise in AI-generated music, including questions about copyright, authorship, and protection.

The AI Revolution in Music

As AI technology advances, its application in the music industry has become a topic of both excitement and concern. AI-generated music, while offering a new realm of creative possibilities for artists, simultaneously raises ethical and legal questions. The emerging technology has the capability to extract previously unusable voices from old recordings, even reviving the voices of deceased artists to create “new” songs, as demonstrated in the case of the Beatles.

The legal landscape for AI-generated music is still evolving, and ongoing discussions and proposed changes to copyright laws are currently underway. The question of performance rights royalties for AI-generated artists is one of the key concerns. For instance, the US Copyright Office’s rejection of a copyright claim for AI-generated art in 2019 suggests that AI-generated artists may not receive performance rights royalties for hit songs, raising questions about payment, authorship, and attribution.

Dealing with Deepfakes

Deepfake technology, capable of simulating the voices of famous artists, has contributed to the surge in AI-produced songs. This has led to a shift in the music industry’s attitude towards AI, especially given the initial attempts by labels such as Universal to combat the rise of fake tracks by issuing takedown notices to streaming services.

However, the negotiations between Google and Universal Music indicate an adaptive approach. The goal is to license artists’ voices and melodies for AI-generated tracks, enabling artists and copyright holders to profit from legitimate fan-made AI songs. This could potentially lead to a significant change in the way the music industry interacts with AI, moving from a defensive stance to a more cooperative one.

Navigating the Copyright Conundrum

The protection of AI-generated music under copyright law depends on the originality and human authorship of the work. Yet, the concept of “originality” in law is uncertain, and the EU test of “author’s own intellectual creation” may require a higher standard of originality. Copyright infringement may occur if an AI tool copies specific melodies or lyrics, but identifying such copying can be challenging.

Moreover, the protectability of voices or singing styles generated by AI is unlikely under English and EU law. However, passing-off claims or actions based on false endorsement may be possible in relation to imitative vocal synthesisers or deepfake versions of artists’ voices. These intricacies underscore the complexity of the copyright conundrum in AI-generated music.

Forging a Path Forward

While legal guidelines are still being developed, the music industry is exploring partnerships to license artists’ melodies and voices for AI-generated songs. Google and Universal Music’s potential licensing system could be a breakthrough in understanding how data and AI will work together, addressing controversies around generative AI and proper accreditation and compensation for scraped data.

This partnership could also impact the future of AI in the music industry, where AI can be used to revive deceased stars, complete unfinished demos, and create new material. However, copyright concerns and ethical questions about the authenticity of AI-generated music need to be addressed. Laws, rules, and business models must adapt to accommodate AI’s influence on music.