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Defending Creativity: Confronting AI's Challenges to the Music World

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We live in a world where technology is forever impacting our society. It permeates our daily activities, from basic communication to more intricate tasks, profoundly impacting how we live. The 1950's saw what is thought to be the first real work with Artificial Intelligence (AI), coming from the Dartmouth workshop of 1956, where according to Machines Who Think: A Personal Inquiry into the History and Prospects of Artificial Intelligence by author Pamela McCorduck it was a "pivotal event that marked the formal inception of AI as an academic discipline." The Term AI was even coined at that time. Since then AI has made significant strides, unveiling a vast array of possibilities and challenges. Artificial intelligence is incredibly versatile, covering tasks from generating images to offering responses and guidance based on prompts. However, amidst these advancements, concerns about job displacement persist, casting a shadow over the transformative potential of AI. Even within the creative sphere, such as the music industry, AI's influence is evident, shaking things up in all sorts of ways.

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On April 2, 2024, Axios reported that more than 200 musical artists, among them notable names such as Billie Eilish, Katy Perry, and Smokey Robinson, collectively authored an open letter. This letter was not aimed at legislators but rather at leaders within the AI community. The artists implored AI developers, tech firms, and digital platforms to refrain from using artificial intelligence in ways that undermine or devalue the rights of human artists. This move by the non-profit Artist Rights Alliance marks a significant moment in the music industry, signaling a strong advocacy against the potential negative effects of AI on artists.


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In the Open Letter, the artists specifically focus on a few key concerns: AI replicating artists' voices, using their work without permission or compensation to train AI models, and the possible impact on royalty payments to artists. According to Forbes, the letter criticized AI developers for their alleged efforts to use artificial intelligence in ways that could replace the contributions of songwriters and musicians. Additionally, it raises concerns about AI companies utilizing artificial intelligence to generate songs, images, and sounds that could potentially replace the work of human artists. 

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Jen Jacobsen, the executive director at The Artist Rights Alliance (ARA), said “We're not thinking about legislation here. We're kind of calling on our technology and digital partners to work with us to make this a responsible marketplace, and to keep the quality of the music sound, and not to replace human artists," according to Axios. The letter further calls upon AI developers to make a commitment not to create technology aimed at generating AI music or undermining the contributions of human songwriters and singers. It also acknowledges that AI can be used responsibly to enhance human creativity, but not at the expense of undermining current artistic efforts.

Direct quote from Forbes:

“This assault on human creativity must be stopped,” the letter reads. “We must protect against the predatory use of AI to steal professional artists’ voices and likenesses, violate creators’ rights, and destroy the music ecosystem.”

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As Artificial Intelligence evolves rapidly and finds diverse applications, lawmakers are struggling to catch up with and address the numerous legal implications that arise. Questions emerge about whether AI-generated work can be copyrighted and, if so, who should be recognized as its creator. As such, laws are beginning to take shape regarding the usage of AI. According to Forbes, "In March, Tennessee lawmakers passed a law called the ELVIS Act that aims to protect musicians from voice clones and other infringements on their likeness." This groundbreaking state law makes it illegal to use AI to mimic an artist's voice without their explicit consent, marking one of the first of its kind.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Giulio Ongaro, a professor and dean of the College of Performing Arts, who shared valuable insight into this topic. Dean Ongaro is an active scholar whose research delves into numerous related subjects such as: the intricate relationship between society and the arts, the socio-political contexts influencing music production and performance, the business aspects of music, music printing, musical instruments of the sixteenth century, and the relationship of words and music. His work has been featured in scholarly journals across the United States and Europe, and he has authored or co-authored nine articles in the renowned New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Dr. Ongaro weighed in on the subject of how artists in the music industry are strategically collaborating with AI developers to stay ahead of the curve with the following,

“I strongly advocate for regulations, as it’s crucial to recognize that artists have rights, and any actions taken must respect those rights. However, I'm skeptical about the effectiveness of reaching out to companies, as their main focus is often profit. The responsibility ultimately falls on Congress, but their tendency to be reactive rather than proactive can pose challenges in addressing emerging issues swiftly and effectively. In the end, AI's advancement can’t be stopped. However, there are ways we can protect people, their livelihoods, and jobs.” -Dr. Giulio Ongaro

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Concerns about the use of AI have already made waves across various other creative industries, as evidenced by the 148-day Hollywood screenwriting strike, where writers demanded protection against automated job displacement. In a parallel move, SAG-AFTRA members joined the strike over concerns about AI replacing actors. Although agreements reached didn't outright ban AI, they did impose restrictions on its usage. According to Forbes in sectors such as publishing, renowned authors like Margaret Atwood and Suzanne Collins, alongside countless others, signed a letter urging for an end to the unauthorized use of their work to train AI. Moreover, artificial intelligence companies are now being hit with lawsuits which claim that they've used the works of several authors to train AI without permission.

One of the first lawsuits regarding AI and artificial intelligence in the USA

According to The Guardian, in January of this year, the estate of George Carlin, a renowned comedian who passed away in early 2008, filed a lawsuit against The Dudesy comedy podcast and its creators. The lawsuit alleged that the podcast utilized artificial intelligence to imitate Carlin's distinctive stand-up voice. Since the trial did not progress to the discovery phase, it was not determined which parts of the comedy special were actually generated by AI. Kelly Carlin, daughter of George Carlin, stated in the article, “While it is a shame that this happened at all, I hope this case serves as a warning about the dangers posed by AI technologies and the need for appropriate safeguards not just for artists and creatives, but every human on earth.” 

As further stated in The Guardian, the estate's lawsuit claimed that the podcast infringed upon Carlin's rights of publicity and copyright, denouncing it as "a casual theft of a great American artist's work." Even if the podcast did not utilize Carlin's comedy to train an AI, an attorney for the estate argued that using the technology to produce an impersonation of him still infringed upon Carlin's rights. There were worries that clips from the special might be taken out of context and circulated online, potentially misleadingly attributed to Carlin.  Ultimately, the case was settled, with neither party disclosing the terms of the agreement.

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The Creative and Cultural Industries are experiencing this flux and change being brought on by advancements in artificial intelligence, and only time will tell how these issues will unfold not only for the industries, but the artists themselves. As a CCI student, what's your take on AI's impact on creative industries? What do you envision for the future of AI? We hope you've enjoyed reading this week's blog and as always don’t forget to share your thoughts with us on Instagram @chapman_cci!

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