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Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash Credit: Wesley Tingey

The latest front in the legal debates around generative AI is a pair of copyright infringement lawsuits filed by three authors in the US against OpenAI and Meta.

Comedian Sarah Silverman, Christopher Golden and Richard Kadrey are the three plaintiffs, and the lawsuit focuses on the alleged use of their books to train the defendants’ AI models.

You can read about the lawsuits on a website launched by the trio’s lawyers, Joseph Saveri and Matthew Butterick. They also recently filed a class action against OpenAI on behalf of two other authors, Paul Tremblay and Mona Awad.

The central argument here is that “much of the mate­r­ial in the train­ing datasets used by OpenAI and Meta comes from copy­righted works—includ­ing books writ­ten by Plain­tiffs—that were copied by OpenAI and Meta with­out con­sent, with­out credit, and with­out com­pen­sa­tion.”

In the case of OpenAI, the lawsuit includes exhibits showing its ChatGPT service generating summaries of the authors’ books when prompted – “something only possible if ChatGPT was trained on Plaintiffs’ copyrighted works”. OpenAI and Meta have yet to comment.

Are these lawsuits relevant to the music industry? In one sense, yes. Rightsholders in our industry have been expressing their concerns about musical AI models being trained on their catalogues without permission, so will be following lawsuits from other creative and media industries closely.

There are limits to the relevance however. Text is a different beast to music in terms of identifying potential training infringement for example: it’s going to be tough explaining how an AI is capable of summarising a book without having been trained on its contents. Music offers more complexities.

AI music startups have been falling over themselves in recent months to stress that they don’t train their models on commercial music, in any case.

But at the very least, the authors’ lawsuits are a strong reminder why it would be very risky for any AI music service to encourage ‘in the style of [ARTIST NAME]’ prompts, or to analyse or summarise lyrics, until they have the licences to facilitate that.

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