Sony Puts AI Companies ‘On Notice’

FT (“Sony Music warns global tech and streamers over AI use of its artists“):

Sony Music is sending warning letters to more than 700 artificial intelligence developers and music streaming services globally in the latest salvo in the music industry’s battle against tech groups ripping off artists.

The Sony Music letter, which has been seen by the Financial Times, expressly prohibits AI developers from using its music — which includes artists such as Harry Styles, Adele and Beyoncé — and opts out of any text and data mining of any of its content for any purposes such as training, developing or commercialising any AI system.

Sony Music is sending the letter to companies developing AI systems including OpenAI, Microsoft, Google, Suno and Udio, according to those close to the group.

The world’s second-largest music group is also sending separate letters to streaming platforms, including Spotify and Apple, asking them to adopt “best practice” measures to protect artists and songwriters and their music from scraping, mining and training by AI developers without consent or compensation. It has asked them to update their terms of service, making it clear that mining and training on its content is not permitted.

Sony Music declined to comment further.

The letter, which is being sent to tech companies around the world this week, marks an escalation of the music group’s attempts to stop the melodies, lyrics and images from copyrighted songs and artists being used by tech companies to produce new versions or to train systems to create their own music.

The letter says that Sony Music and its artists “recognise the significant potential and advancement of artificial intelligence” but adds that “unauthorised use . . . in the training, development or commercialisation of AI systems deprives [Sony] of control over and appropriate compensation”.

It says: “This letter serves to put you on notice directly, and reiterate, that [Sony’s labels] expressly prohibit any use of [their] content.”

It’ll be fascinating to watch this play out. Offhand, it seems to me that either using copyrighted content to train AI models is fair use or it isn’t. Given the radically transformative nature of it, I would lean toward it qualifying under existing law.

If it’s not fair use, large language models simply can’t work under American law. If the only content available is government publications, works released under an unrestrictive Creative Commons model or equivalent, or extremely old works in the public domain, it would be practically useless. If it is fair use, I don’t know why a Beyonce single differs from an article in the New York Times.

The main precedents that come to mind are the various copyright infringement lawsuits against Google, all of which the company has won. Google’s search engine crawls the Internet and indexes copyrighted materials , monetizing this content to sell ads. That’s fair use . Google Images indexes copyrighted photos and artwork, displaying thumbnails of them. That’s fair use. Google Books directly scans the content of copyrighted, well, books . So long as they only make a limited amount of the text available in any given search, that’s fair use . (And note that the whole book is scanned.) They even won a recent case where they used bits of Oracle’s possibly copyrighted (that court didn’t even decide that question) code in its products.

While this is all “emerging technology” in DoD parlance, the contours of the future and its implications are visible. It may well be that Congress should craft new laws to deal with AI, in that it’s in many ways fundamentally different from previous Internet-based cases. But, of course, it has not been known for effectively legislating in recent years.

Panthers eliminate Bruins with 2-1 win in Game 6

BOSTON (AP) — Gustav Forsling scored the tiebreaking goal on a rebound with 1:33 left, and Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 22 shots for the Florida Panthers to beat the Boston Bruins 2-1 on Friday night and win their second-round playoff series in six games.