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Universal Music Group really IS flexing its corporate muscles to clamp down on AI-generated music – or at least, AI-generated music that it thinks has been trained on commercial music without a licence.

The Financial Times has reported on emails sent by UMG to music streaming services asking them to (in the FT’s words) ‘cut off access to their music catalogue for developers using it to train AI technology’. The article claims that UMG has also been sending takedown requests to DSPs.

It also quotes an email sent by the major label to those partners claiming that “we have become aware that certain AI systems might have been trained on copyrighted content without obtaining the required consents from, or paying compensation to, the rightsholders who own or produce the content.”

The streaming services are so far maintaining a diplomatic silence publicly. However, the emails are part of a wider campaign by UMG to tackle what it sees as the key problems in the evolution of the AI-generated music sector.

“Most of these AI systems acquire the essential base of knowledge from which they develop their ‘own’ IP by essentially training on vast quantities of copyrighted content. And they’re not providing any compensation to the people who produce that indispensable source material,” said its digital boss Michael Nash in an interview for the IFPI’s Global Music Report in March.

“The bottom line is, a lot of AI developers are just ignoring the ethics of ingesting the creative work of others, or they’re simply justifying it with what we view as a dangerous distortion of the idea of fair use, that is absolutely not going to hold up.”

UMG also registered the US trademark for the Human Artistry Campaign, which launched last month as a coalition of industry bodies from the creative, media and sports industries setting out the guidelines they’d like to see creative AI developers abide by.

This week’s news shines the spotlight on streaming services, and the question of whether they are unwittingly (or, now they’ve been warned, knowingly) facilitating unlicensed scraping of commercial music for training purposes.

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Stuart Dredge

Music Ally's Head of Insight

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