Music Composition Collaboration with Humans and Machines

Every new technology has challenged the music industry of its time with predictions that it will cause all creativity to stop. Still, the march forward continued, and today with AI we are facing a new technological earthquake that will likely bring the opposing sides to the legislative halls and courtrooms once again.

Of all the art forms, why is music so often on the front lines? Partly, because the battle lines are so clearly defined. The music industry has enforcers with the Recording Industry Association, the National Music Publishers Association, and the Performing Rights Organizations (ASCAP, BMI) ready to fight the battle, and well armed to do so. Music is the art form that has carved out 6 specific rights to be licensed exclusively from the rights holders and creators: reproduction, distribution, public performance, synchronization (music combined with visual and moving images), creation of derivative works, and public display (lyrics) of the works. Music creators and their representatives at record labels and publishers staunchly guard these rights.

The US Copyright Office, itself, has grappled with these issues as a constitutional right since the beginning of the USA. The tech industry is on both sides of the issue. They are both creators and users of original content, with much to gain and lose from the legal outcomes of this battle.

Music is a perfect candidate for machine learning, namely AI generated music. Most musical features of a given work are highly codifiable and quantifiable, making it fertile ground from which AI can recognize patterns, create variations, and build new compositions from the traits of previous examples. Often this is done using copyright-protected music without permission, credit, or payment to the original creators of the content. A showdown is inevitable.

The technical elements of music that are protected by copyright and used by AI as the learning mechanism, as well as the robust music protection system controlling its use are heading for a face-off. The primary musical elements involved include the very essence of musical works, namely pitch sequences, rhythms, lyrics, chord progressions, along with performance features, such as timbre (the character of a particular artist’s singing voice or instrumental performance style), recording studio and arrangement features, and more.

Are the existing legal criteria for determining substantial similarity and copyright infringement still applicable to the musical creation process with AI? The roles of expert testimony, jurors, lay listeners and more will be examined as it applies to AI generated music.

© 2024, Judith Finell MusicServices Inc.

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