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AI Takes Over: Rihanna and Beyoncé Caught in the Crossfire of a Legal Battle for the Music Industry

Rihanna & Beyoncé: AI Music's Legal Storm
Rihanna & Beyoncé: AI Music's Legal Storm

Key points:

  1. AI-generated covers, like Rihanna’s AI cover of Beyoncé’s “Cuff It,” are going viral.
  2. Legal concerns include passing-off claims, misrepresentation, and copyright infringement.
  3. AI companies create new music by training on existing songs, raising legal issues.
  4. Music industry faces challenges in navigating the legal landscape of AI-generated content.

The Viral Trend of AI-Generated Covers: Rihanna and Beyoncé

AI-generated covers of popular songs are taking the internet by storm, with a recent example being an AI-generated cover of Beyoncé’s “Cuff It” featuring Rihanna’s vocals. Shared by a Twitter account called “Rihanna Facts,” the clip has amassed over 850,000 views and has received praise from celebrities like Keke Palmer, who tweeted, “That Rihanna AI is eating all y’all songs up.”

This trend doesn’t stop with Rihanna and Beyoncé. An AI-generated cover of Kanye West (formerly known as Ye) performing the Plain White T’s “Hey There Delilah” has gained over 500,000 views on YouTube, while an AI Ye cover of Drake’s “Passionfruit” has reached over 300,000 views.

However, this viral phenomenon raises several legal concerns for the music industry.

Potential Legal Issues for AI-Generated Covers

Passing-Off Claims and Misrepresentation

Veteran music and copyright lawyer Alexander Ross explains that the first legal issue arises when the creators of AI-generated covers do not make it clear that the voice is AI-generated. If the cover intentionally misleads people into thinking it’s the original artist, a passing-off claim can be made.

However, if the AI-generated cover clearly states that it is an AI exercise and not the original artist, the creator is only subject to basic copyright law.

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Copyright Infringement

Creators of AI-generated covers could face legal action if they fail to obtain the necessary permissions to use the underlying recordings. In the case of the AI Rihanna cover of “Cuff It,” the creator must have obtained permission from Beyoncé and paid her royalties. If the instrumental or part of the original recording is used without permission, copyright infringement has occurred.

Ross suggests that AI cover creators can avoid this issue by recreating the backing track themselves, following traditional rules of cover recordings, which include notifying the original artist, obtaining a mechanical license, and paying royalties.

AI Companies and the Creation of New Music

Aside from AI-generated covers, several AI companies create new music by uploading pre-existing music into their technology, which then generates songs or melodies in those styles. For instance, in 2021, a mental health organization used Google’s AI product Magenta to produce a song called “Drowned in the Sun” by inputting data from numerous original Nirvana recordings.

As a result, Universal Music Group (UMG) has requested major streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music to block AI companies from using their music to “train” their technologies. A UMG spokesperson told the Financial Times, “We have a moral and commercial responsibility to our artists to work to prevent the unauthorized use of their music and to stop platforms from ingesting content that violates the rights of artists and other creators.”

Music lawyer Elliot Chalmers explains that prosecuting those who create music that simply sounds like another artist’s work, regardless of similarity, is more challenging than dealing with direct covers made using AI. Chalmers states that while the technology can recreate a song that sounds like another, it isn’t legally the same, making it difficult to take legal action against such creations.

Conclusion: Navigating the Legal Landscape of AI-Generated Music

The emergence of AI-generated covers and AI-created music presents a new set of legal challenges for the music industry. As viral trends like the AI-generated Rihanna cover of Beyoncé’s “Cuff It” continue to gain traction, lawmakers and industry stakeholders must work together to develop legal frameworks that address the unique challenges of AI-generated content, protecting the rights of artists and creators in the process.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

AI-generated covers are gaining popularity, with examples like an AI-generated Rihanna cover of Beyoncé’s “Cuff It” going viral.
The concerns include passing-off claims, misrepresentation, and copyright infringement related to the use of original recordings.
Creators can avoid infringement by recreating the backing track themselves, notifying the original artist, obtaining a mechanical license, and paying royalties.
AI companies upload pre-existing music into their technology, which then generates songs or melodies in the style of the original music.
The industry must develop legal frameworks to address the unique challenges of AI-generated content and protect the rights of artists and creators.

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