During the latest Congressional hearing on AI, Universal Music Group called on Congress to pass tighter artificial intelligence protections, saying, ‘You have an opportunity to establish legal clarity.’

During the most recent Congressional hearing on artificial intelligence, Universal Music Group called for the introduction of a nationwide publicity campaign, outlining the agenda of the Human Artistry Campaign and emphasizing the importance of transparency around generative AI — seeking clarity on when AI has been used to generate content and what data was used to train any one AI model.

The House Judiciary Committee previously held a hearing that specifically addressed the copyright challenges brought by AI. During the session, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony from Universal Music’s Jeff Harleston, General Counsel and Executive Vice President of Business and Legal Affairs, on behalf of the music business.

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While Harleston emphasized that Universal Music and the music industry as a whole are willing to engage with the developers of generative AI technology, he also stated that those tech companies must respect copyright and other artist rights. Before using any existing recordings to train their AI models, companies in the music industry must first obtain licenses from record labels and music publishers.

“It’s incomprehensible that AI companies and developers believe the rules and laws that apply to other companies and developers do not apply to them,” Harleston added. “Aside from the issue of copyright infringement, these generative AI companies frequently obtain our content from sources that expressly prohibit downloading and use of that content for purposes other than personal and non-commercial.”

“We’ve also seen examples of AI-generated music being used to generate fraudulent plays on streaming services, siphoning incoming from human creators,” he went on to say. “And we’ve seen many troubling cases where an artist’s name, image, likeness, or voice has been used without their knowledge or authorization to generate videos of them saying things they didn’t say, to use their voice and recordings without their knowledge, or to exploit their name to promote fraudulent works.”

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Harleston wants politicians to take attention to the music industry-led Human Artistry Campaign, which asks that permission be obtained before any AI businesses use copyright-protected compositions or seek to duplicate or clone human composers’ voices or identities. Furthermore, no new copyright exceptions that could in the future remove that requirement should be explored.

Harleston specifically mentioned the headline-grabbing “deepfake” track, which has vocal clones of Drake and The Weeknd, both of whom are contracted to Universal. When artists attempt to safeguard their voices or identities, it becomes more than just a matter of copyright; publicity or personality rights are likely to be involved in order to invoke that level of legal protection. However, in the United States, publicity rights are granted at the state level rather than at the federal level.

“We strongly urge you to enact a federal right of publicity statute,” Harleston stated. “Deepfake and/or unauthorized recordings or visuals of artists generated by AI could lead to consumer confusion, unfair competition against the actual artist, market dilution, and damage to the artist’s reputation and brand — potentially irreparably harming their career.”

“An artist’s voice is the most valuable part of their livelihood and public persona, and stealing it is wrong, no matter what the means.”


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