In the transformative realm of artificial intelligence (AI), one cannot ignore the increasing buzz around AI-generated music, a nascent technology that has been quite literally striking a chord in the music industry. While AI-generated videos still have colossal strides to make, the music arena is humming along at a compelling pace but not without presenting unique legal and ethical challenges — precisely, who owns AI-created music? Who gets credited? Who rakes in the business revenue? And, how should the revenue be divided?
Notably, Alphabet Inc., the parent company of Google, is audaciously making attempts to solve this puzzle. According to four different sources reported by the Financial Times, Alphabet is in negotiations with Universal Music Group, one of the world's largest record companies, to discuss a royalty allocation agreement that will enable Google to pay copyright fees based on the revenue from AI-generated music.
Despite these discussions being at an early stage and no product release timeline having been set, insiders reveal that Google's ambitious plan involves developing an AI musical tool. This tool would allow fans to legally use the voices of their favorite artists to create unique songs and then pay royalty fees to the copyright holders.
Meanwhile, Warner Music has also entered into similar separate negotiations. This explains why Warner Music's CEO, Robert Kyncl, wasn't surprised when AI music was broached: "AI lets fans use a new layer of user-generated content, expressing their love for their idols," he aptly remarked to investors. Kyncl believes that the artists themselves must primarily have the power to decide.
Google seems to be smartly leveraging their experience in dealing with copyright issues pertaining to YouTube. After acquiring YouTube, Google introduced the revolutionary copyright identification system 'Content ID' in October 2007. This inventive mechanism provided copyright holders with three response options to suspected copyright infringements - requesting YouTube to remove/block the content, monitor the consumer response through the unlicensed uploaded video, or share profits.
Google's endeavors in deciphering this AI-encoded enigma indirectly helps the broader content industry shape strategies for navigating future challenges. This harkens back to my prediction a few weeks ago: The world will need a universal IP that identifies anyone imitating JK Rowling's style to create 'Harry Potter' tribute content. To protect the IP, the imitations could be silenced or allowed to exist helping with wider promotion. Rowling would be provided with the choice. Hence, sophisticated algorithms are required to decide the allocation of copyright compensation to the entities responsible for the inspirational sources in various forms of content, such as 'a deepfaked video of Tom Holland as Harry Potter transported into the Star Wars universe'.
Certainly, in this future world of music and AI, you may receive a bill from Google Play the moment you finish a 30-second cover of a song echoing a famous singer. As Google grapples with the challenges, the vision for AI music is crystallizing with tremendous inspiring possibilities. But for now, participants are harmoniously voicing the chorus of uncharted territory in these early charts of AI-generated music.