Anyone who has seen a record deal from the last 20 years knows that release clauses can be funny. In their efforts to encompass everything imaginable, they often include formats of telepathic transmission and interplanetary distribution to infinity and beyond. And yet, the entertainment industry didn’t think of using clones for training AI models before it went viral. a Drake and The Weeknd song, generated with a software named so-vits-scv-4.0.
Right now, anyone can make a Drake song without anyone’s permission. Technically, the voice has no copyright. Universal Music wants to ban the “unauthorized” use of copies of its catalog to train generative algorithms. If they succeed, the consequences will be incalculable for the emerging AI industry. But also for artists who have already ceded the rights to their works to a multinational. For example, Taylor Swift.
When she was 15 years old, Taylor Swift signed a contract with Big Machine Records (BMR) to produce six albums: Taylor Swift, Fearless, Speak Now, Red, 1989 and Reputation. When she ended the contract in 2018, Swift signed with Republic Records, but the masters they stayed in BMR. In 2019, the record label’s owner, Scott Borchetta, sold the business with its catalog to Ithaca Holdings, an investment fund owned by Scooter Braun. It so happens that Braun is a man whom Taylor had accused of harassment for years. “My musical legacy is about to end up in the hands of a person who has tried to destroy it”, Swift wrote on her Tumblr account in 2019.
Swift returned to the studio to re-record all six albums and regain control over her music. She did well: both radios and platforms and fans favored new versions in support of the singer, who was the most popular and highest-paid musician of 2021. Here’s the twist: If Big Machine Records had the exclusive right to train an algorithm on Swift’s catalog, it wouldn’t just own their past, but also their future. Guaranteeing that right over derived content would protect the interests of the record company to the detriment of those of the artist.
The unauthorized use of protected content for the training of AI algorithms is the same argument made by the artists who have sued Stable Diffusion and MidJourney. ask three C’s: consent, credit and compensation. An especially interesting case because the training in his case has taken place in Europe, and the european directive requires that the owners of copyright be informed of who uses and how their intellectual property is used.
AI companies believe that as long as the original material is not reproduced or distributed, then its use as inspiration falls within the public domain. At the moment, the Drake and The Weeknd song has been legally withdrawn from all platforms for unauthorized use of a sampler original by Nayvadius DeMun Cash, better known as the rapper Future. If it wasn’t for that, I’d keep going. It’s the new great war of the copyright.