US record label sues AI music generators Suno and Udio for copyright infringement

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The music industry has officially declared war on two of the most prominent AI music generators, Suno and Udio. A group of music labels, including Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group and Sony Music Group, filed a lawsuit in a US federal court on Monday morning, accusing the two of “massive” copyright infringement.

The plaintiffs seek damages of up to $150,000 for each work infringed. The suit against Suno is filed in Massachusetts, while the case against Udio’s parent company Uncharted Inc. was filed in New York. Suno and Udio did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

“Unlicensed services like Listen and Udio that claim it’s ‘fair’ to copy an artist’s life’s work and exploit it for their own profit without consent or payment hold back the promise of truly innovative AI for all of us,” Mitch Glazier, president and CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America, said in a press release.

The companies have not publicly disclosed what they trained their generators on. Ed Newton-Rex, a former AI executive who now runs the ethical AI nonprofit Fairly Trend, has written extensively about his experiments with Suno and Udio; Newton-Rex found he could create music that “highly resembles copyrighted songs.” In complaints, music labels point out that they were independently able to prompt Suno to create outputs that “resembled” copyrighted work from artists ranging from ABBA to Jason Derulo.

One example given in the lawsuit described how the label created songs similar to Chuck Berry’s 1958 rock hit “Johnny B. Goode” at SunO, using cues such as “1950s rock and roll, rhythm and blues, 12 bar blues, rockabilly, energetic male vocalist, singing guitarist”, as well as portions of the song’s lyrics. One song copied the “Go, Johnny, go” chorus almost exactly; the plaintiffs attached scores as well as transcriptions and argued that such an overlap was only possible because SunO had trained on the copyrighted work.

The Udio lawsuit offers similar examples, saying the labels were able to produce a dozen outputs similar to Mariah Carey’s evergreen hit “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” It also compares the music and lyrics side by side, saying the Mariah Carey soundalike created by Udio has already gained attention.

RIAA Chief Legal Officer Ken Doroshow says Suno and Udio are trying to hide the “full scope of their infringement.” According to the complaint against Suno, the AI ​​company did not deny that it used copyrighted material in its training data when asked in correspondence before the lawsuit, but instead said the training data is “confidential business information.”

Many leading generative AI companies are under intense scrutiny for how they train their tools. It is common for these companies to argue that they are protected by the “fair use” doctrine, which allows infringement under certain circumstances. It remains to be seen whether the court system will agree; major companies like OpenAI are already facing copyright infringement lawsuits from artists, authors, programmers, and other rights holders.

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