Major record labels partner with music-generating start-ups

Their names are Suno and Udio and they are both American. Their other point in common: they specialize in the production of music generated by artificial intelligence. Today, they find themselves pursued by the major record companies Sony Music, Universal Music Group and Warner Records.

Accused of committing massive copyright violations, they allegedly used record company recordings to train their artificial intelligence systems which created music generating tools.

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Two young American companies that broke through quickly

Suno, based in Massachusetts, entered the market just two years ago with the ambition of “breaking down the barriers between you and the song you dream of creating.” It launched its first product last year and says more than 10 million people have used its tool to make music. Its employees include:“alumni of pioneering tech companies like Meta, TikTok, and Kensho.” Now a partner of Microsoft, the company offers access via monthly subscription to access its service and raised $125 million last May.

For its part, Udio is based in New York, and known as Uncharted Labs, is the fruit of the work of several former Google DeepMind researchers. The startup is backed by leading venture capitalists such as Andreessen Horowitz, but also artists such as will.i.am and Common, entrepreneurs – including Kevin Wall – and the co-founder of Instagram, Mike Krieger. Its app, released to the public in April, was wildly successful in part thanks to the tool it used to create “BBL Drizzy,” a parody track tied to the feud between artists Kendrick Lamar and Drake.

Famous titles partly recreated using AI

Companies have copied music without permission to teach their systems to create music that “will compete directly with the work of human artists, make it cheaper and ultimately drown it out”according to federal lawsuits filed by the Recording Industry Association of America on Monday against Udio in New York and Suno in Massachusetts. “Our technology is transformative; it is designed to generate entirely new results, not memorize and regurgitate pre-existing content,” explains Mikey Shulman, CEO of Suno, in a press release.

The complaints indicate that Suno and Udio users were able to recreate elements of songs such as the Temptations' “My Girl,” Mariah Carey's “All I Want for Christmas Is You” and “I Got You (I Feel Good)” by James Brown, and that they were able to generate vocals “indistinguishable” from those of musicians such as Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen and ABBA. The labels are therefore asking the courts to award damages of up to $150,000 per song copied. They respectively accuse Suno of having copied 662 songs and Udio of having copied 1,670.

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An aggressive approach that echoes that undertaken by the media

The choice to take legal action against these generative AI companies is nothing very new or very surprising. Other sectors have come up against it, like authors, press organizations and many other people for the use described as abusive of their work in order to train AI models powering chatbots such as OpenAI's ChatGPT. The most recent case dates back to last month.

Eight American newspapers, including Chicago Tribune, indicated that they were suing OpenAI and its main investor, Microsoft. The two companies are accused of stealing millions of copyrighted news articles, in order to train their ChatGPT and Copilot tools. In recent months, a number of media outlets have successively filed complaints against the two companies, the case that has made the most noise is of course that of New York Times, and the matter seems far from settled.

In another register, the New York Times revealed that Google and OpenAI have largely hoovered up millions of hours of YouTube videos, ignoring the video platform's strict policy. Indeed, YouTube not only prohibits the use of its videos for applications “independent”but also to access its videos by “automated means (such as robots, botnets or scrapers)”.

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