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Drake’s feud with Kendrick Lamar isn’t nearly as important as his feud with Tupac Shakur’s estate over the use of the dead rapper’s voice

A song entitled was released in April 2023 Heart on his sleevewritten and produced by a mysterious producer named Ghostwriter, went viral on TikTok and briefly became the most popular song on both YouTube and Spotify.

But just as fast as Heart on his sleeve took off, Spotify and YouTube removed it from their libraries. The producer and songwriter had used artificial intelligence to create vocals on the track that sounded like Drake and The Weeknd. Universal Music Group, which represents both artists, had threatened legal action.

While Drake was certainly aware of the bickering, he didn’t seem fazed by it.

Just over a year later, he was the one who incorporated AI-generated vocals into his music during his ongoing feud with rapper Kendrick Lamar.

I have closely followed these developments, which touch the core of technology, music and law a digital media scholar and as a rap artist who was among the first Unpleasant interpolate rap lyrics with samples of previously released vocals.

As Drake showed in his diss track, AI can help artists produce music. But the technology exists in a legal gray area – especially when it comes to singing.

AI Tupac’s brief moment in the sun

On April 19, 2024, Drake released a song, Taylormade freestylewhich used AI-generated vocals from Tupac Shakur and Snoop Dogg.

On trackShakur’s AI voice – who died in 1996 – addresses Lamar, breaking his silence on the feud between the two rap giants:

“Kendrick we need ya, the West Coast savior / Engraving your name in some hip-hop history,” raps the artificial Shakur. “Call him ab-h for me / Talk about him liking young girls as a gift for me.”

It is not surprising that Shakur’s estate threatened legal action against Drake for his unauthorized recording of Tupac’s voice and personality, which, they alleged, violated the late artist’s rights to control the commercial use of his identity.

Howard King, the estate’s attorney, noted in a letter that the estate would never have approved this use. Soon Drake pulled the diss track from streaming platforms and YouTube.

Rights versus what AI writes

It is important to distinguish copyright from one’s right of publicity.

Because copyright laws use the term “author,” it has traditionally been interpreted as referential only for the creative work of a human being. In other words, according to copyright law, only human beings can be considered authors. And their lyrics, art, photos and music may not be used without their permission.

When it comes to AI and copyright, one of the most important legal issues is the extent to which copyrighted material can be used to train the models. That’s why The New York Times has sued OpenAI and Microsoft: The companies trained their models using articles that appeared in the publication without the newspaper’s permission.

From someone right of publicityon the other hand, refers to their ability to make money from their name, image, likeness, voice or signature.

Perhaps the most famous right of publicity case is a Bette Midler who fought against the Ford Motor Co. in 1988. was initiated. After Midler rejected the car company’s offer to appear in one of their television commercials, Ford used one of her former backup singers to mimic her singing voice in the advertisement.

Ford was forced to pay Midler $400,000 for violating her right of publicity. That ruling by the state of California will now prove crucial for the ways in which AI can be used to clone a celebrity’s voice.

However, litigating publicity rights in cases involving AI will not be easy.

That’s what actor Scarlett Johannson will discover when she sues OpenAI for releasing a new AI voice assistant technology that uses a voice that sounds just like hers.

Because AI large language models are designed to be trained on a wide range of sources for original work, it is still difficult to determine, without proof of intent, what is outright theft and what is simply a product of this range of influences . In Johannson’s case, OpenAI invited her to be the voice of AI assistant technology. She refused, and the company says so went on to create a voice on it’s own. While that voice sounds uncannily similar to Johnannson’s, the company claims it never intended to replicate the actress’ voice.

When imitation is an infringement

Regardless, current federal copyright law does not specifically address cloned singing or when a person’s voice is used in a new or different context.

When it comes to songwriting, these voice clones are somewhat different from existing copyrighted material, as they often introduce original lyrics and musical elements from musicians who turn on the AI.

Unlike, precedents in California and other states argue that impersonating a famous musician in music may violate that musician’s right of publicity.

The publicity rights to which Shakur’s estate refers are likely a more appropriate avenue for litigation: They protect a person’s very likeness—their face, voice, or signature phrases—even if used in a completely new context.

It is known that in the 1990s there were injunctions against musicians who used samples of boxing ring announcer Michael Buffer’s music. trademarked slogan of “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble! But historically, these rights have mainly been invoked in lawsuits over advertising and commercial use, rather than in newly generated works, such as songs.

Where do we go from here?

Faced with legal uncertainty, the recording industry and other top creatives have pushed for new legislation to tackle the problem.

Recently, Tennessee passed a statute called the ELVIS AcThe goal is to crack down on voice cloning by expanding state publicity rights laws to include more than just ads. This statute could protect artists from unauthorized voice cloning and ensure that their vocal expressions are not used without their consent. Federal lawmakers are also considering similar bills that could create this new, broader definitions of publicity rights.

With advances in AI, I think everyone can agree that it is important to safeguard the role of humans in art creation.

While AI can generate impressive imitations, it lacks the soul and spontaneity that human artists put into their work. In my opinion, AI’s role in songwriting should not simply involve replicating human talent. Instead, AI should enhance and support the work of artists, allowing them to leverage the technology without being overshadowed by it.

The AI ​​train has left the station. Now the guardrails must be built hastily to prevent technology from driving the music industry off the rails.The conversation

Jabari M. Evansassistant professor of Race and Media, University of South Carolina

This article is republished from The conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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