UMG, WMG, Sony Music File Litigation Against AI Music Services Suno and Udio for Massive Copyright Infringement

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The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), on behalf of its major label clients Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and Warner Music Group, announced the filing of two copyright infringement lawsuits against AI music services Suno and Udio, alleging the unlicensed use of copyrighted sound recordings to train their generative AI models.

In an email to Digital Music News, the RIAA described both lawsuits as ‘landmark’ — and that may not be an understatement.

According to the trade group, the lawsuits against Suno and Udio, filed in Boston and New York federal courts, respectively, mark a significant step in protecting artists’, songwriters’, and rightsholders’ control over their works in the rapidly evolving landscape of AI technology. The plaintiffs, specifically Sony Music Entertainment, UMG Recordings, Inc., and Warner Records, Inc., assert that Suno and Udio have copied and exploited countless sound recordings without permission, spanning various genres, styles, and eras.

The cases seek declarations of infringement, injunctions to prevent future infringement, and damages for past infringements. The core allegations highlight the unlicensed copying of sound recordings on a massive scale for training, development, and operation of Suno and Udio’s services.

The filings can be found here (Suno) and here (Udio).

In its communication with DMN, the RIAA compiled a breakdown of numerous examples of copyright infringement that exemplify the issue at hand.

RIAA Chairman and CEO Mitch Glazier emphasized the music community’s embrace of AI while highlighting the need for responsible development: “The music community has embraced AI, and we are already partnering and collaborating with responsible developers to build sustainable AI tools. But we can only succeed if developers are willing to work together with us.”

Glazier has been critical of unlicensed services like Suno and Udio for exploiting artists’ work without consent or compensation, hindering the potential of innovative and ethical AI.

RIAA Chief Legal Officer Ken Doroshow reinforced the necessity of the lawsuits, stating, “These lawsuits are necessary to reinforce the most basic rules of the road for the responsible, ethical, and lawful development of generative AI systems and to bring Suno’s and Udio’s blatant infringement to an end.”

The music community, including various organizations and prominent figures, has rallied to support the RIAA’s efforts to protect creative works and foster responsible AI development.

In emails to DMN, executives from The Recording Academy, A2IM, SoundExchange, SONA, the NMPA, and others emphasized the importance of fair compensation, respect for artists’ rights, and the ethical use of AI technology.

The core legal arguments presented in the RIAA lawsuits against Suno and Udio revolve around copyright infringement and fair use, with several key points:

Unauthorized Copying of Sound Recordings: The complaints allege that both Suno and Udio engaged in the mass copying and ingestion of copyrighted sound recordings without obtaining the necessary permissions from rightsholders. The RIAA argues that this act of reproduction constitutes a direct violation of copyright law.

Commercial Exploitation: The lawsuits assert that the unauthorized copying was done for commercial purposes, as both Suno and Udio are profit-driven enterprises that monetize their AI-generated music services. This commercial exploitation of copyrighted works without permission further strengthens the copyright infringement claim.

Harm to the Music Industry: The RIAA contends that the unauthorized copying and exploitation of sound recordings by Suno and Udio not only deprives artists and rightsholders of fair compensation but also poses a significant threat to the music industry as a whole. By generating synthetic music that imitates and competes with genuine human creations, these AI services risk devaluing and potentially replacing human-created music, leading to a decline in the quality and diversity of music available to consumers.

Rejection of Fair Use Defense: The complaints anticipate a fair use defense from Suno and Udio but argue that such a defense is invalid in this context. The RIAA maintains that the fair use doctrine, which allows for limited use of copyrighted material without permission under certain circumstances, does not apply to the wholesale copying and commercial exploitation of sound recordings for the purpose of generating derivative works.

Deliberate Evasion and Lack of Transparency: The lawsuits accuse both Suno and Udio of being deliberately evasive about the scope and extent of their copying of copyrighted sound recordings. This lack of transparency, the RIAA argues, is an attempt to conceal their willful copyright infringement.

Negative Impact on Human Creativity: The RIAA emphasizes that the unauthorized use of copyrighted works in AI models not only harms the economic interests of artists and rightsholders but also undermines the value of human creativity and ingenuity. By relying on the unauthorized copying of existing works, AI services like Suno and Udio risk stifling innovation and reducing the diversity of musical expression.

Overall, the legal arguments in these cases center on the fundamental principle that AI companies, like all other businesses, must abide by copyright laws and respect the rights of creators. The RIAA seeks to establish a clear precedent that the unauthorized copying and exploitation of copyrighted works for commercial purposes, even in the context of AI development, constitutes copyright infringement and will not be tolerated.