First, AI came for artists, then writers. Now, it’s come for musicians. A new trend has hit TikTok that features popular “singers” covering the songs of different musicians. Artists like Drake, Michael Jackson, Pop Smoke, and more are performing covers of other musicians’ songs. Only, they’re not really singing these songs – it’s all AI-generated, the musical version of deep fake videos.
The music industry has been removing AI-generated music from various streaming services claiming copyright infringement. This isn’t out of character for this industry, which caused quite a stir as it has gone after YouTube videos featuring copyrighted songs for years.
“It’s easy to use copyright as a cudgel in this kind of circumstance to go after new creative content that you feel like crosses some kind of line, even if you don’t have a really strong legal basis for it, because of how strong the copyright system is,” says Nick Garcia, policy counsel at Public Knowledge.
But AI-generated music is uncharted territory for both music labels and legal teams as new creative content being produced isn’t specifically protected by copyright laws.
The AI tools are easy to use and can quickly amass millions of streams. As reported by The Verge, a popular AI-generated song “Heart on My Sleeve” featuring a faux Drake was taken down after millions streamed it. “The Universal Music Group claimed it was an unauthorized sample and successfully got the song pulled. In this case, a copyright claim worked – but just barely.”
While Ed Sheran is currently defending the originality of his song “Thinking Out Loud” in court against the family of the late Marvin Gaye for allegedly copying parts of the song to create his hit jam, musicians who find themselves singing ditties they’ve never recorded are left wondering what rights they have to prevent this.
Even musicians who sample others’ work have to get permission, which also includes covers and parodies. Yet labels are left with some grey areas regarding new AI music, which technically can be considered both copyright infringement and an original song. This could potentially divert revenue from an actual, living musician to a computer-generated version of themselves.
While courts, artists, and AI creators debate the legal standing of such cases, this could turn into an interesting exploration of what is considered inspiration and what constitutes a type of vocal identity theft.