The Ugly War of Words (and Legal Filings) Continues: RIAA, Udio Trade Barbs Amid Copyright Infringement Battle

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AI music service Udio remains embroiled in an infringement legal battle with the major labels and, outside the courtroom, is engaging in a war of words with the RIAA. Photo Credit: Udio

Let the war of words continue: Days after the major labels filed copyright infringement suits against Suno and Udio, the latter AI music service has pushed back against the complaint and spurred a formal retort from the RIAA.  

This newest development in the increasingly public showdown arrives on the heels of an outside-the-courtroom confrontation between Suno CEO Mikey Shulman and the RIAA. While that encounter was set in motion by media statements from Shulman, Udio itself went ahead and addressed the majors’ infringement suit with an X post.

Spanning close to 500 words, the all-encompassing response covers Udio’s “thoughts on AI and the future of music,” an attempt at explaining why AI is actually good for proper musicians, and a simplified (and inherently biased) explanation of the training process for generative models.

“Generative AI models, including our music model, learn from examples,” wrote a16z-, will.i.am-, Common-, and UnitedMasters-backed Udio. “Just as students listen to music and study scores, our model has ‘listened’ to and learned from a large collection of recorded music.

“The goal of model training is to develop an understanding of musical ideas—the basic building blocks of musical expression that are owned by no one,” the company proceeded. “Our system is explicitly designed to create music reflecting new musical ideas. We are completely uninterested in reproducing content in our training set, and in fact, have implemented and continue to refine state-of-the-art filters to ensure our model does not reproduce copyrighted works or artists’ voices.”

Omitted from the remarks is a mention of the recordings Udio allegedly removed in the wake of the legal action’s submission; the RIAA promptly noted the pulldown of alleged Mariah Carey and The Temptations soundalike tracks, among others.

And on the training front, Udio’s acknowledgement that its “model has ‘listened’ to and learned from a large collection of recorded music” is significant for multiple reasons.

Moving beyond those reasons for now and shifting the focus to the RIAA’s follow-up, the organization didn’t hesitate to criticize the AI startup’s “meandering” comments.

“If there is any takeaway from Udio’s meandering ‘response,’” an RIAA spokesperson communicated in a comparatively concise 131-word reply, “it is that Udio is attempting to construct an alternate reality where being pro-artist means stealing artists’ work for profit.

“In the reality everyone else is living in, artist advocate groups oppose what Udio is doing and strongly support these lawsuits,” the RIAA continued. “Supporting real creativity means getting permission before using someone’s work and developing technology that partners with and supports human artists instead of cutting them out and replacing them. Music companies have already struck multiple partnerships with startups, entrepreneurs, and others with responsible applications of AI.”

Predictably, the industry representative saved its most important remarks for last, ending by calling out Udio’s above-highlighted training admission.

“There is one surprising note of agreement: Udio now seems to admit their model copied ‘a large collection of recorded music.’ That’s a startling admission of illegal and unethical conduct, and they should be held accountable,” the spokesperson concluded.