Image Credit: @ghostwriter/YouTube

A piece of AI music that features the cloned voices of Drake and The Weeknd has been taken down from Spotify.

A creator, known as @ghostwriter, released a piece of AI music featuring the cloned voices of Drake and The Weeknd. Since the track was posted on Friday, it has gone viral with the full version being played over 254,000 times on Spotify alone. Now, it is being pulled from streaming services and social media.

The use of Artificial Intelligence in the art world is becoming more commonplace. The Dead End Gallery in Amsterdam opened the world’s very first AI art gallery just last month. Creators all over the world are embracing this new technology. However, there are many artists and art lovers who haven’t warmed to it quite as much.

We’re starting to see a rising usage of Artificial Intelligence within the music industry too. Still, opinions on whether this is good or not are divided. David Guetta, who was named Producer of the Year at the 2023 BRIT Awards, heralds AI as the future of music. Others claim AI strips music of its soul and “undermines the value of human creativity”.

The latest development in the great AI music debate revolves around a track entitled Heart On My Sleeve.

Why is Heart On My Sleeve being pulled?

The track released by @ghostwriter was produced using AI technology and the cloned voices of Drake and The Weeknd. A voice software was apparently trained on the singers’ voices, which is how the clones were produced.

The track was posted on several platforms, including TikTok, YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Music, last Friday but is now being removed. Universal Music Group (UMG) requested the removal, claiming that the track infringes on copyright.

UMG publishes both Drake and The Weeknd through its label, Republic Records. Whilst the company says it has been doing its own work around AI for some time, it is not a fan of this particular release. UMG has said:

 “The training of generative AI using our artists’ music (which represents both a breach of our agreements and a violation of copyright law) as well as the availability of infringing content created with generative AI on DSPs [digital service providers], begs the question as to which side of history all stakeholders in the music ecosystem want to be on: the side of artists, fans and human creative expression, or on the side of deep fakes, fraud and denying artists their due compensation.

“These instances demonstrate why platforms have a fundamental legal and ethical responsibility to prevent the use of their services in ways that harm artists. We’re encouraged by the engagement of our platform partners on these issues as they recognise they need to be part of the solution.”

Does AI music actually infringe copyright?

One can take several stances on AI music, including assessing its legitimacy from a moral or legal standpoint.

UMG triggered the removal of Heart On My Sleeve from major platforms based on legal claims, but the validity of these claims is somewhat questionable.

@ghostwriter has used Artificial Technology to create a seemingly completely original piece of music. Therefore, it does not infringe copyright in that sense. It cannot be said that the creator was aiming to mislead listeners into thinking this was a real release from Drake either. Upon uploading the track, the author stated that the voices were cloned using software designed for that purpose.

Drake certainly isn’t keen on AI, with his voice being used numerous times already without his consent. Most recently, the rapper addressed a version of the new US rapper Ice Spice’s song Munch that featured a deep fake verse by him. On his Instagram story, he simply stated: “This is the final straw AI”.

Should AI music be protected by copyright?

Taking a look at the other side of the coin, there are questions about whether music generated using AI should itself be protected by copyright. As a rapidly evolving technology, the state of things has made it difficult for the courts to keep up.

In the US, The Copyright Act protects “works of authorship”. So far, courts have held that authors protected by this notion must be human. The muddiness comes when determining whether the amount of human input whilst producing AI-generated works is enough to claim protected authorship.

People have already tried to copyright AI works, including Steven Thaler. He was rejected three times by the US courts, with them deeming that the artwork was not “created with contribution from a human author”.

Taking a similar stance, the “Human Artistry Campaign“, backed by the Recording Industry Association of America, the Association for Independent Music and the BPI, has stressed that copyright protection should only be given to music created by humans. This is alongside seven principles that the group has outlined, pertaining to AI best practices.

The sticking point is where the line is in relation to how much human intervention is necessary to deem whether something has had sufficient contribution from a human author. So many creative processes within art and music rely on technology and processes that did not exist just decades ago. Naturally, there’s always some resistance at first. But, how do you know whether something is a natural progression as a result of technological advancements, or whether it is a step too far?

Would you use Artificial Intelligence in music?

The moral quandary, when it comes to AI, is the fact that any art produced isn’t truly completely original. It pulls from existing creations, amalgamating them to create something new. To some, this could feel a little like plagiarism.

However, artists commonly cite other artists as their inspiration. In some cases, the influence of another artist on a musician can be distinctly audible in a track or album. This is widely accepted, and the done thing within music and art. Is this similar to AI pulling from existing creations? Or, is the fact that it’s more like a computer pulling information from a database, rather than a human creating something after seeing art that spoke to their soul, the big problem?

When talking about AI music, a lot of sentences end with question marks.

As a musician, or lover of music, do you view AI as an exciting new tool that could create countless new creative possibilities? Or, do you see it as a danger to creators and a frightening means of devaluing music?

It’s likely we’ll hear of more court cases and fierce debates about the use of AI in the music industry in the coming months or years. Certainly, it’s difficult to know for sure which way things are going to go right now.