Google and Universal Music are in talks to license music and artist voices for AI-generated songs. So the record industry tries to make an opportunity out of a danger, a bit like what happened with MP3s. But if it took years (and the genius of Steve Jobs) to defeat Napster and come up with a sensible alternative to illegal downloading, this time the reactions seem much faster.
The discussions are said to be in an early stage, so there won’t be any products soon, but the goal would be to develop a tool that allows fans to create music from already existing songs, and at the same time guarantee the rightful owners of the copyrights to receive compensation for the use of their works. Warner, the third largest record company in the world, after Universal and Sony, would also be involved in the negotiations.
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With Generative AI, there has been a proliferation of “deepfake” songs that convincingly mimic the voices, lyrics or sound of established artists, often without their consent. Thus, for example, an unwitting Frank Sinatra lent himself to hip hop by Gangsta’s Paradise and father of country Johnny Cash succumbed to pop fads with a cover of Barbie Girl. “Unauthorized AI-generated recordings or images of artists could lead to consumer confusion, unfair competition against the real artist, market saturation, and reputational and brand damage, with potentially irreparable damage to their career. The rumor is the most valuable part of his livelihood and public persona, and stealing it — no matter the means — is wrong,” Universal Music general counsel Jeffrey Harleston told the US Congress last month. these recordings with cloned vocals are often covers it means that you are infringing both the musical work from which the vocals were taken, and the original song.In fact, when the vocal cloning AI is trained using copyrighted recordings , more violations are likely to occur.”
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With the spread of generative AI, some music stars have expressed concern that their voice can be used without their consent, and the agreement under discussion between Google and Universal – points out the Financial Times – would provide that no new creation of songs or otherwise may take place without their explicit consent. Madonna, for example, seems to have left precise provisions in her will so that her voice is not used to create new songs after her death.
It’s a serious problem, and it emerged in great evidence earlier this year when an AI-powered song featuring vocals from Drake and The Weeknd went viral online. Universal Music, the label of both musicians, had them removed Heart On My Sleeve from streaming platforms for copyright infringement. But other artists have embraced the technology, for example Grimes, the artist who was a longtime companion of Elon Musk, made her voice available to anyone who wanted to use it to create new songs with AI, asking in exchange for the its share of royalties and establishing certain minimum rules to be respected. “There’s some good stuff in there,” she told Wired magazine this week, referring to the songs her AI composed using her own voice.
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In January, Google previewed a version of AI-powered music software capable of generating music from textual descriptions such as “futuristic polka with soundtrack strings” or “symphonic metal with Latin elements and an oboe solo.” At first, the company said it had “no plans” to make the tool publicly available, which also appeared to have several problems with copyright management, but in May, Google launched an intelligence platform artificial that can be used to generate music; it’s called MusicLM and was created in collaboration with some musicians; there is also an app for computers and smartphones. For a few days now, Meta has also made Audiocraft available in open source sophisticated language model capable of generating music from text prompts.
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“Innovation in the music industry is providing new opportunities for artists, producers and fans. Being able to monetize these innovations is certainly a positive aspect for guaranteeing legal remuneration”, says Enzo Mazza, CEO of Fimi, the Federation of the Italian Music Industry. And even if those reported by the Financial Times today are just rumors, sooner or later we will come to define an economic framework for exploiting generative artificial intelligence. On the other hand, Universal itself has announced a partnership with the German startup Endel to create soundscapes with AI, in full respect of the copyrights of the artists involved. And Google has a long relationship with the music industry. Just think of YouTube, which was initially filled with user-uploaded videos using copyrighted music; today, after years of legal battles between Mountain View and record labels, these videos contribute about 2 billion dollars to the overall music market annually.
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