Universal Music Group Urges Congress to Pass Regulations on AI

Universal Music Group (UMG) is urging the U.S. Congress to pass regulations to protect artists from copyright infringement around the use of AI-generated content. Jeffrey Harleston, general counsel and executive vice president for business and legal affairs at UMG, presented three specific laws the label would like to see enacted during a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on intellectual property on Wednesday (July 12).

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Harleston offered three key suggestions to combat copyright infringement by AI users and developers including: a “Right of Publicity” law; labeling of AI-generated content; and more transparency giving copyright owners the ability to view the training data used in AI models.

The “Right of Publicity” law would protect artists against the unauthorized use of their voice, likeness, or other parts of their identity, which has become fairly common practice, following the recent viral interpretations of artists and songs, including UMG’s The Weeknd and Drake, and a number of other artists whose work has recently been altered by AI.

“[Deep fakes] 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,” said Harleston during the hearing, and added that AI developers are responsible for obtaining permission from copyright holders. “An artist’s voice is the most valuable part of their livelihood and public persona, and to steal it, no matter the means, is wrong.”

He continued, “AI-generated, mimicked vocals trained on vocal recordings extracted from our copyrighted recordings go beyond ‘Right of Publicity’ violations and concerns about consumer deception, unfair trade practices, and privacy — copyright law has clearly been violated.”

In March of 2023, UMG, along with the Recording Academy, Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), SAG-AFTRA, and dozens of other groups within the music industry, signed the Human Artistry Campaign, a group advocating for creators’ rights around the development of AI.

Harleston added that there is a place for AI with music generation, which can be done by following seven “Core Principles for Artificial Intelligence Applications.” These principles were set by the Human Artistry Campaign, and include “support human creativity and accomplishment with respect to the inimitable value of human artistry and expression.”

“Since unchecked ‘generative AI’ poses many dangers, we support efforts to ensure that
generative AI thrives as a technology that enhances rather than threatens human creativity,
and one that protects the rights of artists, their livelihoods, the creative ecosystem and culture
as a whole,” said Harleston at the close of his testimony.

He added that UMG is starting to talk to leading AI music companies and early-stage AI companies to cultivate “Responsible AI” opportunities.

“You have an opportunity to establish legal clarity that creates a brighter path towards
generative AI legitimacy and legality,” said Harleston. “Those solutions will not always require legislation, but some, like a federal ‘Right of Publicity’ statute or requiring the transparency of training datasets, require swift, decisive legislative action. We stand ready to work with you and your colleagues to find productive, practical solutions in the interest of creators and the longevity of our rich

Read the full Jeffrey Harleston/UMG testimony HERE.

Photo: Getty Images

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