Okay, so things are really starting to get out of hand here. First, it started with the self-checkout lines in the grocery stores. Then, they started replacing folks at the job with automated voice messaging services that never quite understand you. Fast forward past the numerous technological advances that pretty much allow your smart phone to do the work of 17 people. And now, this has to be the best evidence available that the powers that be are convinced this world does not need people to make it go ‘round. Get this – they are now using artificial intelligence (“AI”) to create music. Music!! Artists, watch out, technology is coming for the number one spot. Music will be made, with, or without you.
Apparently, this notion of using artificial intelligence to create music is not a new phenomenon. It’s been in practice since as early as the 1950s. In fact, David Bowie, in collaboration with Universal Music Group, built a program, namely the Verbasizer, which was then used to create a number of different lyrical combinations after prompting the user to input certain words and phrases. The music generated by the Verbasizer was used in his albums “Berlin Trilogy” which is credited by many as his best work. David Bowie’s experience was a good one, in that he felt the program merely suggested things that he could infuse with his emotions.
What is new, on the other hand, is that the labels, investors, streaming services, and other key players are now putting a lot of money into this technology in order to produce more artificially intelligent generated content. Google is in the process of developing algorithms to generate AI music, artwork and drawings. Artists are already making use of its technology, Performance RNN to write its songs, which “uses neural networks to give expressive, human-like timing and dynamics to otherwise stagnant, machine-generated MIDI files”.
Am I the only one who sees this as a major problem for the creatives in the music industry? How will this play out exactly? Is the artificial intelligence wired to create non-infringing material? If not, who gets sued if the music created by this technology does infringe upon the work of actual living people? Or is this a way to infringe without incurring liability? Or maybe a ploy to take the music back away from the artists and creatives and return back to the old way of doing things where artists can’t make a move without label backing? And who is credited as the copyright owner of the music? Are artists who employ the technology considered co-authors of their work? If no artist is involved, who is the owner, the technology? The label funding the technology? I don’t know, but I don’t like it. I don’t like it one bit.
Lerae Funderburg, Esq. is the Managing Attorney at Funderburg Law, LLC, an Atlanta based entertainment law firm. Lerae has almost 10 years of experience in entertainment law in both music law and film law. As an entertainment lawyer and blogger, Lerae keeps her viewers and subscribers up to date with entertainment legal news, especially in the areas of music. If you are local to Atlanta, call and set up a consultation! She would love to hear from you!