AI's most fearsome opponent yet? The lawyer-powered music industry.
Major record label Universal Music Group (UMG) has forced a song that uses the AI-generated vocals of Aubrey "Drake" Graham and Abel Makkonen "the Weeknd" Tesfaye to be taken offline, Billboard reports, calling it out as being "infringing content."
The song, dubbed "Heart on My Sleeve," was originally uploaded to TikTok by user Ghostwriter977 and featured extremely uncanny imitations of the voices of both music artists.
Before it was removed from streaming services, it racked up 600,000 streams on Spotify and 15 million views on TikTok, according to the report. But, as is the case for virtually anything uploaded to the internet, it's trivially easy to find alternative uploads.
The incident highlights the growing concerns over the effects of AI-generated music in the entertainment industry — and at what, if the history of filesharing is any guide, could become an escalating battle to contain or monetize it.
UMG told Billboard in a statement that songs like this one "demonstrate why platforms have a fundamental legal and ethical responsibility to prevent the use of their services in ways that harm artists."
It's not the first time UMG has acted against AI-generated music. Earlier this month, the label issued a copyright takedown notice against a YouTuber, who created an AI-generated song about kittens using the voice of world-renowned rapper Marshall "Eminem" Mathers.
UMG also requested that streaming platforms including Spotify and Apple last week block any AI services from making use of copyrighted material that belongs to the label, as the Financial Times reported.
Plenty of unanswered questions remain: who holds the final right over somebody's voice? Can a unique voice be copyrighted in its entirety?
Drake, for his part, is furious.
"This is the final straw AI," he wrote in an Instagram story, following the viral success of a song by rapper Ice Spice, which was modified to feature a cloned version of his voice.
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