Copyright Conundrum: AI-generated Song Imitating Drake and The Weeknd Sparks Legal Debate

A viral song called „Heart On My Sleeve,“ which was created by an AI program that imitated the styles of Drake and The Weeknd, was recently removed from streaming services by Universal Music Group. The song, which was created by someone going by the name @ghostwriter, had racked up millions of listens before its removal from platforms like Spotify and Apple Music.

The removal of the song has led to a debate over whether or not it breached copyright. However, intellectual property law expert Andres Guadamuz from the University of Sussex has argued that the song did not infringe copyright because the underlying music was new, and only the sound of the voice was familiar. „You can’t copyright the sound of someone’s voice,“ Guadamuz said.

Guadamuz went on to suggest that the furor around AI impersonators might eventually lead to copyright being expanded to include voice, rather than just melody, lyrics, and other created elements. However, he also acknowledged that this would be a problematic development, as voice isn’t really an expression of an idea that can be protected by copyright.

While the song may not have breached copyright, an AI-generated impersonator could still be in violation of other laws. For example, if an artist has a distinctive voice or image, this may be protected under „publicity rights“ in the United States or similar image rights in other countries. Enforcement of these rights, however, is „very hit and miss,“ according to Guadamuz, and streaming platforms currently lack straightforward mechanisms for removing content that breaches image rights.

Moving forward, the big legal fight will likely be over how AI programs are trained. Guadamuz noted that it may be argued that inputting existing Drake and Weeknd songs to train an AI program could be a breach of copyright. However, this issue is far from settled, and Guadamuz said that defendants could argue that it’s fair use, as they are using the music to train a machine and then removing the copies. Ultimately, it will be up to the case law to decide.

Despite the legal issues surrounding AI-generated music, it seems unlikely that the trend will slow down anytime soon. As Guadamuz noted, bands will have to decide whether they want to pursue legal action, and copyright cases are expensive. Some artists may even start using the technology themselves if they begin to lose their voice. The future of AI-generated music remains uncertain, but it is certainly an area to keep an eye on.