Record Companies Bring Landmark Cases for Responsible AI

06-24-2024 2:09 PM EDT

Record Companies Bring Landmark Cases for Responsible AI

(RIAA) The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) today announced the filing of two copyright infringement cases based on the mass infringement of copyrighted sound recordings copied and exploited without permission by two multi-million-dollar music generation services, Suno and Udio.

The case against Suno, Inc., developer of Suno AI, was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts and the case against Uncharted Labs, Inc., developer of Udio AI, was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. The plaintiffs in the cases are music companies that hold rights to sound recordings infringed by Suno and Udio - including Sony Music Entertainment, UMG Recordings, Inc., and Warner Records, Inc. The claims cover recordings by artists of multiple genres, styles, and eras.

"The music community has embraced AI and we are already partnering and collaborating with responsible developers to build sustainable AI tools centered on human creativity that put artists and songwriters in charge," said RIAA Chairman and CEO Mitch Glazier. "But we can only succeed if developers are willing to work together with us. Unlicensed services like Suno 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 pay set back the promise of genuinely innovative AI for us all."

RIAA Chief Legal Officer Ken Doroshow added, "These are straightforward cases of copyright infringement involving unlicensed copying of sound recordings on a massive scale. Suno and Udio are attempting to hide the full scope of their infringement rather than putting their services on a sound and lawful footing. These lawsuits are necessary to reinforce the most basic rules of the road for the responsible, ethical, and lawful development of generative AI systems and to bring Suno's and Udio's blatant infringement to an end."

The cases seek: (1) declarations that the two services infringed plaintiffs' copyrighted sound recordings; (2) injunctions barring the services from infringing plaintiffs' copyrighted sound recordings in the future; and (3) damages for the infringements that have already occurred.
Key Allegations
While the facts of each case regarding each of the defendants' unlicensed copying of plaintiffs' sound recordings are distinct, they also contain a common set of core allegations regarding the training, development, and operation of Suno and Udio.
A graphic restating allegations regarding copying of iconic music is available here..

Excerpts from the complaints include:
"AI companies, like all other enterprises, must abide by the laws that protect human creativity and ingenuity. There is nothing that exempts AI technology from copyright law or that excuses AI companies from playing by the rules. Th[ese] lawsuit[s] see[k] to enforce these basic principles." (Complaints * 2.)

"[T]here is both promise and peril with AI. As more powerful and sophisticated AI tools emerge, the ability for AI to weave itself into the processes of music creation, production, and distribution grows. If developed with the permission and participation of copyright owners, generative AI tools will be able to assist humans in creating and producing new and innovative music. But if developed irresponsibly, without regard for fundamental copyright protections, those same tools threaten enduring and irreparable harm to recording artists, record labels, and the music industry, inevitably reducing the quality of new music available to consumers and diminishing our shared culture." (Complaints * 3.)

"Building and operating [these services] requires at the outset copying and ingesting massive amounts of data to "train" a software "model" to generate outputs. For [these services], this process involved copying decades worth of the world's most popular sound recordings and then ingesting those copies [to] generate outputs that imitate the qualities of genuine human sound recordings." (Complaints * 7.)

"When those who develop such [services] steal copyrighted sound recordings, the [services'] synthetic musical outputs could saturate the market with machine-generated content that will directly compete with, cheapen, and ultimately drown out the genuine sound recordings on which the [services were] built." (Complaints * 4.)

"Given that the foundation of [these businesses] has been to exploit copyrighted sound recordings without permission, [they have] been deliberately evasive about what exactly [they have] copied. This is unsurprising. After all, to answer that question honestly would be to admit willful copyright infringement on an almost unimaginable scale." (Complaints * 8.)

"Of course, it is obvious what [these services are] trained on. [They] copied Plaintiffs' copyrighted sound recordings en masse and ingested them into [their] AI model[s]. [These] product[s] can only work the way [they do] by copying vast quantities of sound recordings from artists across every genre, style, and era. (Complaints * 9.)

"[These services are] not exempt from the copyright laws that protect human authorship. Like any other market participant, [they] cannot reproduce copyrighted works for a commercial purpose without permission. Heedless of this basic principle, [their] unauthorized copying erodes the value and integrity of Plaintiffs' copyrighted sound recordings with rapid and devastating impact. [These] service[s] generat[e] music with such speed and scale that it risks overrunning the market with AI-generated music and generally devaluing and substituting for human-created work." (Complaints * 12.)
"[The services] cannot avoid liability for [their] willful copyright in
fringement by claiming fair use. The doctrine of fair use promotes human expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyrighted works in certain, limited circumstances, but [the services] offe[r] imitative machine-generated music-not human creativity or expression." (Complaints * 14.)

"Since the day [they] launched, [the services have] flouted the rights of copyright owners in the music industry as part of a mad dash to become the dominant AI music generation service. Neither [these services] nor any other generative AI company, can be allowed to advance toward this goal by trampling the rights of copyright owners." (Suno * 82, Udio * 91.)

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