The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is suing two AI music startups on behalf of some of the biggest record labels in the world, accusing them of copyright infringement.

As Bloomberg reports, the trade group has filed a lawsuit against Suno AI and Udio AI, two makers of two AI-powered music creation apps, alleging that they trained their AI models on broad swathes of copyrighted recordings without permission.

The RIAA — which represents Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, and Sony Music Entertainment — is seeking damages of as much as $150,000 "per work infringed" — which could amount to billions of dollars, according to Bloomberg's reporting.

It's a notable escalation in the fight between record labels and AI companies that benefit from the work they represent by remixing it with the use of generative AI.

"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," RIAA CEO Mitch Glazier told Bloomberg in a statement.

Both Udio and Suno allow users to turn simple text prompts into an entire track. Of course, these tools don't draw these creations out of thin air, and are using AI models that have been trained on a wealth of data.

Where exactly that data came from remains shrouded in mystery. Unsurprisingly, neither Sunio nor Udio were willing to tell Bloomberg what data their AI models were trained on, an increasingly common refrain in the industry.

"We try to cast our net as wide as possible so that we can represent all the different traditions of music in our model," Udio CEO David Ding told Bloomberg in April.

The two apps have limited free versions of their apps and also charge for monthly subscriptions.

Whether they are infringing on copyright remains hotly debated. While many AI companies have argued that the practice falls under fair use, a doctrine that permits the limited use of copyrighted material under US law, many rights holders think otherwise.

The music industry in particular has been caught up in a fierce battle. Contentious tracks that clone the voices of prominent artists like Aubrey "Drake" Graham and Abel Makkonen "the Weeknd" Tesfaye have gone viral over the last couple of years, leading to outrage and lawsuits filed by the artists' label, Universal Music Group.

For now, given the absence of a legal precedent, it's still unclear if AI startups will be able to defend their apps using the fair use doctrine — or whether they'll be on the hook for potentially billions of dollars in damages.

"There is both promise and peril with AI," the latest lawsuit reads. "As more powerful and sophisticated AI tools emerge, the ability for AI to weave itself into the processes of music creation, production, and distribution grows."

More on AI music: Country Star Who Can't Sing After Stroke Releases New Song Using AI

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