Universal Music Takes Legal Action Against AI Firm Anthropic Over Song Lyrics

Universal Music Group, one of the world’s leading music companies, has initiated a copyright infringement lawsuit against AI start-up Anthropic. The music giant alleges that Anthropic unlawfully scrapes lyrics from their songs and uses them in its chatbot, Claude, which competes with ChatGPT.

Key Takeaways:

  • Universal Music, along with two other music companies, claims Anthropic uses their songs without permission.
  • Anthropic’s chatbot, Claude, allegedly produces “identical or nearly identical copies” of song lyrics.
  • The music industry faces challenges with AI technologies that can create “deepfake” songs mimicking established artists.
  • Anthropic was established in 2021 by former OpenAI researchers and has received investments from tech giants like Amazon and Google.
  • The music industry’s concerns with AI mirror past copyright battles, such as the one against Napster in the 2000s.

A Deeper Dive:

Universal Music Group, often referred to as Universal Music, is a Dutch–American multinational music corporation. With its corporate headquarters in Hilversum, Netherlands, and operational headquarters in Santa Monica, California, it stands as the world’s largest music company. Universal Music is one of the “Big Three” record labels, alongside Sony Music and Warner Music Group. The company’s rich history traces back to the formation of the American branch of Decca Records in 1934. Over the years, Universal Music has undergone various mergers and acquisitions, shaping it into the powerhouse it is today. Read more about Universal Music Group on Wikipedia.

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The current lawsuit underscores the music industry’s ongoing challenges with emerging technologies. Universal Music and other companies are grappling with the rise of AI technologies capable of producing “deepfake” songs. These AI-generated songs can convincingly mimic the voices, lyrics, or sounds of established musicians. The issue gained significant attention when an AI-produced song imitating the voices of popular artists Drake and The Weeknd went viral online.

Anthropic AI Start-Up

Anthropic, the AI start-up at the center of the lawsuit, was founded in 2021 by a group of researchers who previously worked with Microsoft-backed OpenAI. The start-up has since attracted investments from major tech companies like Amazon and Google. Anthropic’s chatbot, Claude, is designed to respond to prompts by incorporating song lyrics into its replies. However, music companies allege that Claude uses these lyrics without proper licensing, leading to the current legal dispute.

The concerns surrounding AI and music aren’t new. The music industry has faced similar challenges in the past. In the 2000s, music companies waged legal battles against new technology services like Napster, which facilitated the pirating of music. The current situation with Anthropic echoes these past struggles, highlighting the industry’s ongoing efforts to protect its intellectual property in the digital age.

Universal Music Group Artists

Universal Music Group, home to renowned artists like Taylor Swift and Billie Eilish, recently announced a collaboration with music platform BandLab. This partnership aims to address copyrights “ethically” for AI applications, ensuring proper permissions are in place. Furthermore, Universal is in talks with Google to license its artists’ voices and melodies for AI-generated songs.

In their lawsuit, the music groups emphasized the importance of innovation, recognizing the potential of AI when used ethically and responsibly. However, they assert that Anthropic’s practices violate these principles on a broad scale. Earlier in the year, Universal had requested streaming platforms like Spotify to restrict access to its music catalog for developers using it to train AI technologies.

The outcome of this lawsuit could set a precedent for how the music industry navigates the challenges posed by AI and other emerging technologies in the future.