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Universal asks streaming platforms to block AI access of music catalogue

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Universal Music Group (UMG) has called for streaming services to block AI companies from accessing music from its artists’ back catalogues and using their music to train AI software.

The request was made in an email sent last month to platforms including Spotify and Apple Music, according to reporting from the Financial Times.

In the email – which has been verified by Billboard – UMG outlined how it had become aware that certain AI services had been trained on music that is protected under copyright law, “without obtaining the required consents” from the song owners.

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It read: “We will not hesitate to take steps to protect our rights and those of our artists.”

Current laws surrounding the usage of AI and copyrighted material is currently hazy and unresolved, and it is unclear what steps UMG would be able to or willing to take.

In a statement commenting on the email it sent to the music platforms, UMG said: “We have a moral and commercial responsibility to our artists to work to prevent the unauthorised use of their music and to stop platforms from ingesting content that violates the rights of artists and other creators.

“We expect our platform partners will want to prevent their services from being used in ways that harm artists,” it continued.

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AI software and platforms are taught by feeding high quantities of “inputs”, which in a music context, means millions of tracks and songs. Last year (October 2022), the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) claimed that it was infringing upon musicians’ copyright.

At the time it said: “There are online services that, purportedly using artificial intelligence (AI), extract, or rather, copy, the vocals, instrumentals, or some portion of the instrumentals from a sound recording, and/or generate, master or remix a recording to be very similar to or almost as good as reference tracks by selected, well known sound recording artists.”

The issue of AI training has been put into the spotlight across other industries in recent times, in the face of an explosion in popularity. In February, Getty Images has filed a lawsuit against Stability AI for allegedly using its database of photographs to train AI platforms, while a group of visual artists have filed a class action lawsuit over the use of their work in AI training.

Isaac Muk is Mixmag’s Digital Intern, follow him on Twitter

Written by: Tim Hopkins

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