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Music creators hit out at “profoundly tone-deaf” government hearing on impact of AI

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The Council of Music Makers (CMM) have shared an open letter about the “profoundly tone-deaf” government hearing on the impact of AI.

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The UK government’s Department For Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) met today (November 20) as part of a roundtable to discuss the opportunities and challenges artificial intelligence poses the creative industries, with input from the music, film, book and photography sectors.

Though the music industry was well represented, the CMM hit out at the government hearing for their lack of representatives speaking for artists and songwriters.

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Led by Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer, the DCMS shared: “Central to the discussion will be concerns about copyrighted material being used without permission to train AI models like ChatGPT and the risk that content created by AI can potentially infringe creative’s intellectual property. The meeting is also expected to cover necessary protections for artists’ likenesses and voices”.

Frazer added: “The UK’s strengths and accomplishments in art and entertainment mean we are well placed to take advantage of developing technologies in this field. But creatives rightly have concerns – and proposals – about how their work is used by artificial intelligence now and in the future, and I want to hear them.”

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She continued: “As Culture Secretary I want to maximise the potential of our creative industries and grow them by £50 billion by 2030, creating one million new jobs. I believe that AI can help delivering these goals, but only if opportunities are developed responsibly and in lock-step with industry, which is the ambition behind today’s meeting.”

The session was attended by Universal Music’s David Joseph, Sony Music’s Jason Iley and Warner Music’s Tony Harlow as well as a single representative from Framestore Group, the Publishers’ Association and Getty Images respectively.

Other participants included the government’s Intellectual Property Office, the Alliance For IP, and author Nina Schick – writer of the book Deepfakes: The Coming Infocalypse. There was only one representative for the individual performers and creators which was Nicola Soloman, who is CEO of the Society For Authors and also chairs the cross-artform Creators’ Rights Alliance.

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Criticising the lack of representation for human creators at the roundtable, the CMM said in their open letter: “We are hugely concerned that the government is forming a roundtable which only gives one single seat to a representative of all creatives across all media (including film, theatre, literature and music), but has three seats for executives from major record companies. This is profoundly unbalanced and tone-deaf.”

They continued: “It is crucial to understand that when corporate rightsholders make decisions about digital policies and digital business models, they do so without consulting the music-making community. These decisions are made unilaterally in secret and are rarely even communicated to music-makers and their teams.

“The last 25 years have also demonstrated that – when making these decisions – corporate rightsholders always prioritise the interests of their shareholders. It is true that sometimes the interests of those shareholders and music- makers are aligned, but sometimes they are diametrically opposed.”

ChatGPT, Suqian City, Jiangsu Province, China, 19 November 2023. (Photo by Costfoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
ChatGPT Suqian City Jiangsu Province China 19 November 2023 Photo by CostfotoNurPhoto via Getty Images

Elsewhere in the open letter, the CMM said: “However, the corporate rightsholders are now making changes to the streaming model, while also developing brand new business models with AI companies. Again, the music-maker community is not being consulted, with decisions being taken unilaterally by record labels and the technology companies. Deals are being done in secret, with decisions only communicated through press releases.

The letter ended with: “At the core of the debate around generative AI is the impact it will have – positive and negative – on human creators. While corporate rightsholders are important business partners for human creators, they cannot speak for or represent them in this debate.

“We urge record labels and the technology companies to actively engage with music-makers on AI. And we call on government to ensure that human creators are at the centre of its valuable work to ensure that the opportunities of AI are achieved in a way that benefits everyone, and especially the people who create the music we all love and which makes a significant contribution to the UK’s public purse.”

Last week, UK Music Interim Chief Executive Tom Kiehl urged Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to respond to the music industry’s concerns around artificial intelligence by introducing some form of legal protection around the developing technology.

Kiehl and UK Music have suggested that AI could be a form of “music laundering,” opening up a potential means for creatives to not receive compensation for their work.

Back in September, the CMM published five fundamental rules that they want companies to embrace when it comes to developing music AI technologies.

The outlined five key objectives to ensure that all training, licensing and commercialisation of music-making generative AI models in the music sector can be developed in a way that is both helpful to creators and respective of their rights.

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