Google and Universal Music Group Pursue Potential Deepfake Song Licensing Deal: Report
Google and Universal Music Group (UMG) are looking to craft a licensing agreement for songs produced with generative AI, including performances by deepfake versions of existing singers, according to a report from the Financial Times. The initial discussions are aimed at eventually setting up a system of approval and payments for the music label and its artists.
Google and UMG are looking for ways to accommodate the rapid proliferation of synthetic song technology besides pursuing likely fruitless bans and take-downs. Instead, they reportedly hope to set up a system to license and obtain royalties for AI-generated songs and voice clones of UMG artists as long as they choose to participate. UMG has already sent notices of copyright infringement to streaming services multiple times over viral hits like the deepfake Drake and The Weeknd song Heart On My Sleeve, which had already had more than 10 million TikTok views. And streaming service Deezer is working on building AI tools to detect and remove deepfake singers and synthetically generated songs from its platform.
The nebulous state of current deepfake regulations has led to plenty of other kinds of experiments with AI-generated songs. French DJ and music producer David Guetta created and played an AI-written and performed Eminem song with “Emin-AI-em” and simply asked him for forgiveness afterward. Music producer and artist Timbaland shared a sample of a song featuring a deepfake voice of the Notorious BIG before pausing work on it after some backlash from fans of the deceased rapper. Meanwhile, musical artist Grimes has gone so far as to offer 50% of the royalties on any AI-generated song that uses her voice. Holly Herndon outright offers a free synthetic version of her voice to make music with called Holly+, and the musical group YACHT trained an AI model to write an entire album called “Chain Tripping.”
UMG picking Google as its first potential generative AI model partner makes sense too. Though Google demonstrated a text-to-music generator named MusicLM in March, the company refused to make the model available to the public due to concerns it might infringe on copyright. UMG likely appreciates that prudence. The timing of the talks is notable as well. Meta just released open-source music generative AI tool Audiocraft, and AI-generated music facet in a growing number of synthetic video services like Vimeo and Adobe.