UMG, WMG, Sony Music Pondering an AI ‘Takedown Notice’ System, Says New Report

AI takedown notice system

Photo Credit: Cytonn Photography

A new report finds the Big Three pondering an AI ‘takedown notice’ system under discussion with Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music.

According to a new report, the three major labels — UMG, WMG, and Sony Music — are undergoing talks with the big music streaming services to find a way to get them to quickly and easily remove recordings with AI-generated vocals made to sound like popular artists.

The idea currently under discussion with Amazon Music, Apple Music, and Spotify would operate similarly to that proposed by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act — but would cite violations of publicity rights rather than copyright. However, unlike the DMCA, this arrangement seems to be a voluntary gentleman’s agreement rather than one backed by legal precedent.

The DMCA, established in 1998, provides online services that use, store, or transmit copyrighted works a haven from secondary liability for copyright infringement — as long as they abide by a notice-and-takedown system enabling rightsholders to ask them to remove copyrighted content. 

Unfortunately, that law would not apply to most AI-generated “soundalike” tracks because they do not technically infringe on protected elements of copyrighted recordings or compositions. Instead, they violate the rights of publicity, which celebrities can receive to protect their name and likeness from unauthorized commercial exploitation.

But citing rights of publicity can be more complicated than copyright because they vary by state as matters of state law, backed by limited legal precedent. The use of soundalike vocals for creative purposes may be protected as free speech in some cases, and these rights almost always belong to the artists themselves — not labels. Labels filing notices on behalf of artists (with authorization) seems the most straightforward legal process and argument with which to keep AI-generated soundalikes off the primary streaming services.

Meanwhile, the stance taken by the leading streaming services stands counter to a recent announcement from Audius, a blockchain-based music platform enabling artists to “opt-in” to allow AI-generated works on their artist page. Audius says it would create a separate tab on the artists’ page for user-generated content to alleviate confusion with the artist’s own work.