Major Record Labels Launch Landmark AI Copyright Lawsuit

The world’s leading record labels have initiated a landmark lawsuit against two artificial intelligence (AI) start-ups, alleging extensive copyright violations. Sony Music, Universal Music Group, and Warner Records claim that Suno and Udio have infringed on their copyrighted material on an “almost unimaginable scale.”

The labels accuse the start-ups of using their software to create music that closely mimics existing tracks, demanding compensation of $150,000 (£118,200) per infringed work. The lawsuits, which were filed in federal courts in Massachusetts and New York, were announced on Monday by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

Suno, a Massachusetts-based company, launched its first product last year and boasts over 10 million users. It has a partnership with Microsoft and recently raised $125 million from investors. Udio, also known as Uncharted Labs and based in New York, is supported by prominent venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. Udio’s app, released in April, gained immediate notoriety for creating the parody track “BBL Drizzy” amidst the Kendrick Lamar and Drake feud.

The lawsuits claim that the AI firms’ practices are not protected under the fair use doctrine, which allows for limited use of copyrighted works without a licence for purposes such as satire and news reporting. The record labels argue that the AI-generated music serves no transformative purpose and competes directly with the original recordings.

“The use here is far from transformative, as there is no functional purpose for… [the] AI model to ingest the Copyrighted Recordings other than to spit out new, competing music files,” the complaints state. They highlight that Suno and Udio have produced tracks like “Prancing Queen,” which even die-hard ABBA fans might mistake for an authentic recording.

Songs cited in the Udio lawsuit include Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” and “My Girl” by The Temptations. The record labels contend that the AI firms’ motives are “brazenly commercial,” threatening to undermine the genuine human artistry at the heart of copyright protection.

The lawsuits represent a broader wave of legal challenges from various industries against AI companies’ use of copyrighted material. Just months ago, around 200 artists, including Billie Eilish and Nicki Minaj, signed a letter calling for an end to the “predatory” use of AI in the music industry.

Suno and Udio did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The outcome of this case could have significant implications for the future of AI-generated content and copyright law.

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