In recent years, artificial intelligence has emerged as both a tool of innovation and a source of controversy in many industries. A wave of copyright infringement lawsuits from three industry-leading record labels has sparked heated debate over creativity, ownership, and the future of music. On June 24th, Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, and Warner Records filed lawsuits against AI music startups Suno AI in Boston, and Udio AI in New York. At issue is whether the compositions generated by the AI software infringe on existing copyrights.

Both Suno and Udio are new startups, with Suno launching its first product and Microsoft partnership last year, and Udio releasing its app in April. Udio recently gained popularity when producer Metro Boomin used the software to generate the viral song “BBL Drizzy.” 

The record labels argue that the AI-generated songs often mimic established artists’ styles and melodies too closely, potentially confusing consumers and diluting the market for original music. The complaints claim that Suno and Udio users have recreated elements of songs including The Temptations’ “My Girl,” Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” and James Brown’s “I Got You (I Feel Good),” and could generate vocals that are “indistinguishable” from musicians such as Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, and ABBA. The complaints allege that Suno copied 662 songs, and Udio copied 1,670 songs. The labels asked the court to award up to $150,000.00 per song. 

In March, Tennessee became the first state to pass legislation protecting songwriters, performers, and other music industry professionals against the dangers of AI. In April, over 200 artists followed suit and submitted an open letter by the Artist Rights Alliance calling on artificial intelligence companies to stop using AI to infringe on the rights of human artists.  The Recording Industry Association Industry of America chairman stated that “unlicensed services like Suno and Udio that claim it’s ‘fair’ to copy an artist’s life’s work and exploit it for their own profit without consent or pay set back the promise of genuinely innovative AI for us all.”

AI-generated music raises fundamental questions about the nature of authorship and ownership in a digital era. Unlike human creators, AI lacks legal personhood and agency, complicating the assignment of copyright responsibility. Should the credit go to the programmers who design the algorithms, the users who input parameters, or the AI itself as a non-human entity?

Beyond legal and philosophical debates, the rise of AI in music creation underscores broader societal shifts towards automation and digital transformation. As AI technologies continue to evolve, they challenge existing frameworks across various industries, prompting calls for updated regulations and ethical guidelines to navigate these uncharted waters responsibly. While the lawsuits between record labels and AI song generator apps highlight immediate legal disputes, they also signify larger conversations about the intersection of technology, creativity, and intellectual property. As stakeholders grapple with these complex issues, the outcome will undoubtedly shape the future of music creation and distribution.