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AI’s Most Ambitious Music Generators Accused of ‘Massive’ Infringement In New Lawsuit

The RIAA accused the companies Suno and Udio of infringing millions of songs to illegally train their AI music models

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The major record labels have filed lawsuits against the prominent AI music generation companies Suno and Udio on Monday, accusing the companies of training their AI tech on the unlicensed works of some of the world’s biggest artists.

The suits — filed in Massachusetts and New York — were filed by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) which represents the industry’s “Big Three” record companies Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group. The three labels collectively represent most of the biggest artists in pop music history. Suno and Udio are two of the most promising artificial intelligence music generators in the business, capable of creating music, lyrics and vocals in a matter of seconds.

The RIAA alleges that Udio’s generator had created songs with striking resemblances to songs including Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” the Beach Boys’ “I Get Around,” Abba’s “Dancing Queen” and Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” among others.

In Suno’s case, the RIAA alleged the generator had created tracks that contained portions of songs such as B.B. King’s “The Thrill Is Gone,” Jerry Lee Lewis’s “Great Balls of Fire,” James Brown’s “I Got You (I Feel Good),” and Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode.” The latter track, titled “Deep Down in Louisiana Close to New Orle,” “replicates the highly distinctive rhythm of the original’s chorus, and uses the same melodic shape on the phrases “go Johnny, go, go.”

The companies “could not have built a model capable of producing audio so similar to the Copyrighted Recordings without the initial act of copying those recordings,” the suit said.

“The basic point is that [the AI companies’] model requires a vast corpus of sound recordings in order to output synthetic music files that are convincing imitations of human music,” the suits alleged. “Because of their sheer popularity and exposure, the Copyrighted Recordings had to be included within Suno’s training data for Suno’s model to be successful at creating the desired human-sounding outputs.”

The RIAA is asking for damages amounting to up to $150,000 per infringing song. The core of the dispute is about what trains the models that make the music generation possible, and whether the use of that material is allowed without a license. The answer remains murky as copyright law still must catch up with the emerging technology.

The RIAA alleges that the generators used the record labels’ songs to illegally train the models since they didn’t have the rights holders’ permission to use the recordings. But whether the companies needed that permission is unclear. AI companies have argued that the use of training data is a case of fair use, meaning they are allowed to use the recordings with impunity.

“The music community has embraced AI and we are already partnering and collaborating with responsible developers to build sustainable AI tools centered on human creativity that put artists and songwriters in charge,” RIAA Chairman and CEO Mitch Glazier said in a statement. “But we can only succeed if developers are willing to work together with us. Unlicensed services like Suno and Udio that claim it’s ‘fair’ to copy an artist’s life’s work and exploit it for their own profit without consent or pay set back the promise of genuinely innovative AI for us all.”

Reps for Suno and Udio didn’t immediately respond to request for comment.

Speaking with Rolling Stone earlier this year, Suno investor Antonio Rodriguez said that “if we had deals with labels when this company got started, I probably wouldn’t have invested in it. I think that they needed to make this product without the constraints.” He further called the risk of a major label lawsuit “the risk we had to underwrite when we invested in the company, because we’re the fat wallet that will get sued right behind these guys.” The RIAA cited Rodriguez’s quote in its complaint.

The suit is a landmark moment for AI in the music industry. While UMG previously sued the Amazon-backed AI company Anthropic over the use of the company’s lyrics to train its AI model Claude, this is the first time a music company has sued an AI company over actual recordings.

While the record labels have voiced concern over infringement issues, they have proceeded cautiously to experiment with AI. UMG and WMG partnered with YouTube last year on the AI text-to-music generator DreamTrack, which featured music from artists including Charli XCX, Demi Lovato and Charlie Puth among others. The company also announced a partnership this month with the AI music startup SoundLabs so that the label’s artists can develop their own AI voice clone models.

Warner Music Nashville, meanwhile, released the song “Where That Came From,” which featured the AI-generated vocals of country legend Randy Travis, who lost his ability to sing after a near-fatal stroke over a decade ago.

The RIAA itself launched the Human Artistry Campaign last year, advocating for the use of artificial intelligence in ways that support and do not replace artists, and ensures copyright holders are compensated if their works are used in AI content.

“These are straightforward cases of copyright infringement involving unlicensed copying of sound recordings on a massive scale,” the RIAA’s Chief Legal Officer Ken Doroshow said in a statement monday. “Suno and Udio are attempting to hide the full scope of their infringement rather than putting their services on a sound and lawful footing. These lawsuits are necessary to reinforce the most basic rules of the road for the responsible, ethical, and lawful development of generative AI systems and to bring Suno’s and Udio’s blatant infringement to an end.”

This is a developing story and will be updated as more details are made available.

From Rolling Stone US