YouTube may be planning to give us new AI song generators this year – and this time the music labels could let it happen

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The battle between the music industry and the rampant, often copyright-infringing, use of AI to train and compile data sets has been heating up for quite some time. But now YouTube is reportedly negotiating with record labels to pay for that privilege instead.

It seems that Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, and Warner Records are in talks with the Google-owned platform about paying to license their songs for AI training, according to an article from the Financial Times (and reported on by Engadget). However, if this deal goes through, the individual artists, not the record companies, will most likely have the last word on their participation.

It’s no coincidence that these giants have been the focus of YouTube, either. Artificial intelligence music makers Suno and Udio have recently been hit with major lawsuits filed by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and major music labels for copyright infringement. The RIAA has also been backed by the likes of Sony Music Entertainment, UMG Recordings, Inc., and Warner Records, Inc.

Furthermore, this isn’t even the first time YouTube has been reportedly involved in ways to properly compensate music artists for generative AI use. In August 2023, the video platform announced its partnership with Universal Music Group to create YouTube’s Music AI Incubator program. This program would partner with music industry talent like artists, songwriters, and producers to decide on how to proceed with the advent of AI music.

Artists have been quite outspoken about generative AI use and music

Judging from artists’ past responses on the subject of AI, many of them have been very outspoken about its dangers and how it devalues their music. In April 2023, over 200 artists signed an open letter calling for protections for AI.

In a statement by the Artist Rights Alliance, those artists wrote: “This assault on human creativity must be stopped states. We must protect against the predatory use of AI to steal professional artists’ voices and likenesses, violate creators’ rights, and destroy the music ecosystem.”

Even artists who are more open to and have even benefited from generative AI’s usage regarding music ask to be properly included in any decision-making regarding such use, as asserted by an open letter from Creative Commons released in September 2023.

According to said letter: “Sen. Schumer and Members of Congress, we appreciate…that your goal is to be inclusive, pulling from a range of ‘scientists, advocates, and community leaders’ who are actively engaged with the field. Ultimately, that must mean including artists like us.”

The general consensus from creatives in the music industry is that, whether for or against generative AI use, artists must be included in conversations and policy-making and that their works must be properly protected. And considering that artists are the ones with the most to lose, this is by far the best and most ethical way to approach this issue.

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