Universal Music Group, Concord, ABKCO Sue Amazon-Backed Anthropic AI for Copyright Infringement

Anthropic AI sued lawsuit
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Anthropic AI sued lawsuit
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Photo Credit: Anthropic

Universal Music Group, Concord Music Group, and ABKCO are suing the Amazon-backed Anthropic AI over ‘systematic and widespread’ copyright infringement.

UMG’s publishing arm Universal Music Publishing Group, along with Concord Music Group and ABKCO, are suing AI platform Anthropic — which just last month received a multi-billion dollar investment from Amazon — for copyright infringement.

Anthropic, which describes itself as an AI safety and research company, stands to owe UMG and its co-plaintiffs tens of millions of dollars in damages for the alleged “systematic and widespread infringement of their copyrighted song lyrics.”

The company’s flagship product, Claude, is described as part-ChatGPT-adjacent and part-content creation engine. But the publishers’ lawsuit, filed in a Nashville court on October 18, asserts that Claude’s “creative content generation” violates long-standing United States copyright law.

“In the process of building and operating AI models, Anthropic unlawfully copies and disseminates vast amounts of copyrighted works — including the lyrics to myriad musical compositions owned or controlled by publishers,” the lawsuit claims.

According to the filing, Anthropic is “scraping and ingesting massive amounts of text from the internet and potentially other sources, and then using that vast corpus to train its AI models and generate output based on this copied text.”

“Included in the text that Anthropic copies to fuel its AI models are the lyrics to innumerable musical compositions for which publishers own or control the copyrights, among countless other copyrighted works harvested from the internet,” the lawsuit adds. “This copyrighted material is not free for the taking simply because it can be found on the internet. Anthropic has neither sought nor secured publishers’ permission to use their valuable copyrighted works in this way.”

“Publishers embrace innovation and recognize the great promise of AI when used ethically and responsibly. But Anthropic violates these principles on a systematic and widespread basis,” continues the filing.

“It is well established by copyright law that an entity cannot reproduce, distribute, and display someone else’s copyrighted works to build its own business unless it secures permission from rightsholders. Just like countless other technologies, AI companies must abide by the law,” says Matthew J. Oppenheim of Oppenheim + Zebrak, LLP, attorney for ABKCO, Concord, and UMPG, in a statement to DMN.

The lawsuit claims that because of Anthropic’s systematic scraping of song lyrics, the company’s Claude AI is able to “generate identical or nearly identical copies of those lyrics, in clear violation of publishers’ copyrights.”

UMG’s lawsuit acknowledges that several music lyrics aggregators already exist, but those sites have obtained proper licensing from music publishers to use copyrighted works on their platforms.

Anthropic’s failure to do so, the lawsuit argues, is “depriving publishers and their songwriters of control over their copyrighted works and the hard-earned benefits of their creative endeavors.” It further competes unfairly against music lyric aggregators who paid for the proper licensing and it undermines “existing and future licensing markets in untold ways.”