Universal Music Group sues Anthropic AI over copyright infringement

Universal Music Group (UMG), Concord Publishing and ABKCO Music & Records have filed a lawsuit against the artificial intelligence (AI) startup Anthropic, accusing the latter of committing copyright infringement when training its AI chatbot, Claude. 

The lawsuit was filed on Oct. 18 and claims that Anthropic “unlawfully” copied and disseminated “vast amounts of copyrighted works – including the lyrics to myriad musical compositions” that are under the ownership or control of the publishers.

It called Anthropic’s use of the works “widespread and systematic infringement” and said the defendant cannot reproduce, distribute and display copyrighted works to build a business without the proper rights.

“This foundational rule of copyright law dates all the way back to the Statute of Anne in 1710, and it has been applied time and time again to numerous infringing technological developments in the centuries since. That principle does not fall away simply because a company adorns its infringement with the words ‘AI.‘’

The lawsuit claims that Claude can generate identical or nearly identical copies of songs such as “What a Wonderful World,” “Gimme Shelter,” “American Pie,” “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Every Breath You Take” and at least 500 others.

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In this case, the publishers provided examples of Claude being able to deliver an almost word-for-word replication of UMG’s song “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor. 

The plaintiffs have asked the court to order the alleged infringement to end and grant monetary damages.

The case joins the many popping up against major AI developers on the grounds of copyright infringement.

OpenAI, the developer of AI chatbot ChatGPT, was sued by the Author’s Guild for similar reasons. Meta is currently facing a lawsuit from comedian and author Sarah Silverman and others for copyright issues. Google is involved in a lawsuit regarding its data scraping policy for AI training purposes.

As far as the music industry’s involvement is concerned, UMG has been vigilant about protecting its catalog and the rights of its artists from AI-related copyright violations. On Oct. 18, it entered into a strategic partnership with BandLab Technologies focusing on ethical AI usage to protect artist and songwriter rights.

Over the summer, UMG and Google were reportedly in talks to create a tool that would allow for the creation of AI tracks legally using artists’ likenesses.

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