In the ongoing battle between copyright owners and AI-generative engines, a new episode of legal confrontation has appeared. This time, music publishers, including Universal Music Group Publishing (UMGP), Concord Music Group and ABKCO, have filed a lawsuit against Anthropic, an artificial intelligence company founded by former members of OpenAI (the creators of the now famous ChatGPT) and working on the development of large language models.
Anthropic garnered attention after it received substantial investments from companies such as Amazon, Google, Salesforce and Zoom. Last May, Anthropic was invited to the White House to discuss responsible AI development with Vice President Kamala Harris, along with other influential companies such as Alphabet, Microsoft and OpenAI.
The lawsuit was formally filed in federal court in Nashville on 18 October. In the lawsuit, Universal Music alleges that "in the process of building and operating AI models, Anthropic has illegally copied and distributed substantial amounts of copyrighted works, including the lyrics of numerous musical compositions owned or controlled by publishers". They are seeking €140,000 in damages for each work infringed. They also claim that Claude, Anthropic's AI, is capable of creating identical or near-identical copies of iconic songs such as 'What a Wonderful World', 'Sweet Home Alabama' and at least 500 other compositions.
To support their claims, the plaintiffs asked Claude to provide the lyrics to songs such as Katy Perry's 'Roar' (owned by Concord) and Gloria Gaynor's 'I Will Survive' (owned by Universal). In all cases, Claude successfully provided the lyrics.
It is worth noting Universal Music has also been involved with AI, working on the potential that this technology can bring to its own business. In May, they partnered with Endel, an AI music company, to explore the potential of AI-assisted music production. In August, they announced negotiations with Google to reach an agreement that would compensate artists for the use of AI-generated voices and melodies. More recently, on 18 October, Universal Music signed a strategic partnership with BandLab Technologies to focus on the ethical use of AI to protect the rights of artists and composers.
This case joins a number of recent similar lawsuits against major AI developers for copyright infringement. For more information on these lawsuits, we invite you to have a look through our previous blogs in which we have talked about the multiple lawsuits OpenAI has received based on similar grounds, which you can see here, here and here.