Apr 18, 2023 - Technology

AI copyright in spotlight after platforms pull "fake Drake" song

 The Weeknd and Drake performs on stage at O2 Arena on March 24, 2014 in London, United Kingdom.

The Weeknd and Drake performs on stage at O2 Arena in London, England, in 2014. Photo: Joseph Okpako/Redferns via Getty Images

A viral AI song that replicates Drake and The Weeknd's vocals has been pulled from multiple streaming platforms following a complaint from label Universal Music Group (UMG).

Driving the news: "Heart on My Sleeve" was removed from Spotify and Apple Music on Monday. By Tuesday, it was removed from YouTube, Amazon, SoundCloud, Tidal, Deezer, and TikTok — where it was streamed 15 million times after being originally uploaded on the platform by a user called Ghostwriter977. Some versions were still available online.

  • Ghostwriter977 said in a since-deleted post that they wrote and produced the AI-generated vocals for the rap song.

By the numbers: The song that was played 600,000 times on Spotify and attracted 275,000 views on YouTube was widely shared on social media, with one clip posted to Twitter that has since been disabled garnering 20 million clicks.

What they're saying: UMG said in a media statement "the training of generative AI using our artists' music" represented "both a breach of our agreements and a violation of copyright law."

  • The music publisher added that platforms had a "legal and ethical responsibility to prevent the use of their services in ways that harm artists."

Reality check: While there are intellectual property issues, it's not really clear whether the label or Drake and The Weeknd have a claim under traditional copyright law, given that the song in question isn't something the artists ever wrote or sang.

Thought bubble: This is just the beginning of what's likely to be a long and complex conflict between excitement over deploying artificial intelligence in pop culture and efforts to protect copyright.

Go deeper: Generative AI is a legal minefield

Go deeper: Listen to the Axios Today podcast, where host Niala Boodhoo explores what AI means for music and the way we create and consume it. She’d love to hear your thoughts.

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