Music Titan Targets AI Sony Music accuses AI developers of copyright violations.

May 22, 2024
Reading time
2 min read
Sony Music logo turning into the copyright symbol

The world’s second-largest music publisher accused AI developers of potential copyright violations.

What’s new: Sony Music Group declared that AI developers had trained models on Sony’s intellectual property without permission and that any method of collecting media or other data owned by the company violated its copyrights. Whether AI developers actually have violated copyrights has not been established.

How it works: In a statement posted on the company’s website and letters to developers, Sony forbade the use of its music or other media such as lyrics, music videos, album art for “training, developing, or commercializing any AI systems.”

  • Sony Music Group sent letters to more than 700 AI developers and streaming services. Letters to AI developers demanded that they reveal which works they had used for training by the following week. Recipients included Google, Microsoft, and text-to-music startups Suno and Udio. Letters sent to streaming services, including Apple and Spotify, asked them to modify their terms of service to prohibit anyone from using streaming services to collect data owned by Sony, among other measures.
  • It reserved the right to grant specific developers permission to use its material as training data, asking interested parties to contact Sony by email if they wanted to make a deal.

Behind the news: In April, more than 200 music artists called for streaming services and AI developers to stop using their work for training and stop generating music in the styles of specific musicians without compensation. Universal Music Group (UMG), which is Sony Music’s top competitor, has also opposed unrestricted AI-generated music.

Last year, UMG ordered Apple Music and Spotify to block AI developers from downloading its recordings and issued takedown notices to YouTube and Spotify uploaders who generated music that sounds like artists who are under contract to Universal. 

Why it matters: Sony Music Group’s warning comes as generated audio is approaching a level of quality that might attract a mainstream audience, and it could chill further progress. Although it is not yet clear whether training AI systems on music recordings without permission violates copyrights, Sony Music Group has demonstrated its willingness to pursue both individuals and companies for alleged copyright violations. The company accounted for 22 percent of the global music market in 2023. (UMG accounted for 32 percent.) Its catalog includes many of the world’s most popular artists including AC/DC, Adele, Celine Dion, and Harry Styles. 

We’re thinking: We believe that AI developers should be allowed to let their software learn from data that’s freely available on the internet, but uncertainty over the limits of copyright protection isn’t good for anyone. It’s high time to update to intellectual property laws for the era of generative AI.


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