By: Melissa Torres
A new song titled “Heart on My Sleeve” went viral this month before being taken down by streaming services. The song racked up 600,000 Spotify streams, 275,000 YouTube views, and 15 million TikTok views in the two weeks it was available.
Created by an anonymous TikTok user, @ghostwriter977, the song uses generative AI to mimic the voices of Drake and The Weeknd. The song also featured a signature tagline from music producer Metro Boomin.
Generative AI is a technology that is gaining popularity because of its ability to generate realistic images, audio and text. However, concerns have been raised about its potential negative implications, particularly in the music industry, because of its impact on artists.
Universal Music Group (UMG) caught wind of the song and had the original version removed from platforms due to copyright infringement.
UMG, the label representing these artists, claims that the Metro Boomin producer tag at the beginning of the song is an unauthorized sample. YouTube spokesperson Jack Malon says, “We removed the video after receiving a valid copyright notification for a sample included in the video. Whether or not the video was generated using artificial intelligence does not impact our legal responsibility to provide a pathway for rights holders to remove content that allegedly infringes their copyrighted expression.”
While UMG was able to remove the song based on an unauthorized sample of the producer tagline, it still leaves the legal question surrounding the use of voices generated by AI unanswered.
In “Heart on My Sleeve”, it is unclear exactly which elements of the song were created by the TikTok user. While the lyrics, instrumental beat, and melody may have been created by the individual, the vocals were created by AI. This creates a legal issue as the vocals sound like they’re from Drake and The Weeknd, but are not actually a direct copy of anything.
These issues may be addressed by the courts for the first time, as initial lawsuits involving these technologies have been filed. In January, Andersen et. al. filed a class-action lawsuit raising copyright infringement claims. In the complaint, they assert that the defendants directly infringed the plaintiffs’ copyrights by using the plaintiffs’ works to train the models and by creating unauthorized derivative works and reproductions of the plaintiffs’ work in connection with the images generated using these tools.
While music labels argue that a license is required because the AI’s output is based on preexisting musical works, proponents for AI maintain that using such data falls under the fair use exception in copyright law. Under the four factors of fair use, advocates for AI claim the resulting works are transformative, meaning they do not create substantially similar works and have no impact on the market for the original musical work.
As of now, there are no regulations regarding what training data AI can and cannot use. Last March, the US Copyright Office released new guidance on how to register literary, musical, and artistic works made with AI. The new guidance states that copyright will be determined on a case-by-case basis based on how the AI tool operates and how it was used to create the final piece or work.
In further attempts to protect artists, UMG urged all streaming services to block access from AI services that might be using the music on their platforms to train their algorithms. UMG claims that “the training of generative AI using our artists’ music…represents both a breach of our agreements and a violation of copyright law… as well as the availability of infringing content created with generative AI on DSPs…”
Moreover, the Entertainment Industry Coalition announced the Human Artistry Campaign, in hopes to ensure AI technologies are developed and used in ways that support, rather than replace, human culture and artistry. Along with the campaign, the group outlined principles advocating AI best practices, emphasizing respect for artists, their work, and their personas; transparency; and adherence to existing law including copyright and intellectual property.
Regardless, numerous AI-generated covers have gone viral on social media including Beyoncé’s “Cuff It” featuring Rihanna’s vocals and the Plain White T’s’ “Hey There Delilah” featuring Kanye West’s vocals. More recently, the musician Grimes recently shared her support toward AI-generated music, tweeting that she would split 50% royalties on any successful AI-generated song that uses her voice. “Feel free to use my voice without penalty,” she tweeted, “I think it’s cool to be fused [with] a machine and I like the idea of open sourcing all art and killing copyright.”
As UMG states, it “begs the question as to which side of history all stakeholders in the music ecosystem want to be on: the side of artists, fans and human creative expression, or on the side of deep fakes, fraud and denying artists their due compensation.”
While the music industry and lawyers scramble to address concerns presented by generative AI, it is clear that “this is just the beginning” as @ghostwriter977 ominously noted under the original TikTok posting of the song.