US Record Labels Sue AI Music Generators Suno and Udio for Copyright Infringement

The music industry has officially declared war on Suno and Udio, two of the most prominent AI music generators. A group of music labels including Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, and Sony Music Group has filed lawsuits in US federal court on Monday morning alleging copyright infringement on a “massive scale.”

The plaintiffs seek damages up to $150,000 per work infringed. The lawsuit against Suno is filed in Massachusetts, while the case against Udio’s parent company Uncharted Inc. was filed in New York. Suno and Udio did not immediately respond to a request to comment.

“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,” Recording Industry Association of America chair and CEO Mitch Glazier said in a press release.

The companies have not publicly disclosed what they trained their generators on. Ed Newton-Rex, a former AI executive who now runs the ethical AI nonprofit Fairly Trained, has written extensively about his experiments with Suno and Udio; Newton-Rex found that he could generate music that “bears a striking resemblance to copyright songs.” In the complaints, the music labels state that they were independently able to prompt Suno into producing outputs that “match” copyrighted work from artists ranging from ABBA to Jason Derulo.

One example provided in the lawsuit describes how the labels generated songs extremely similar to Chuck Berry’s 1958 rock hit “Johnny B. Goode” in Suno by using prompts like “1950s rock and roll, rhythm & blues, 12 bar blues, rockabilly, energetic male vocalist, singer guitarist,” along with snippets of the song’s lyrics. One song almost exactly replicated the “Go, Johnny, go” chorus; the plaintiffs attached side-by-side transcriptions of the scores and argued that such overlap was only possible because Suno had trained on copyrighted work.

The Udio lawsuit offers similar examples, noting that the labels were able to generate a dozen outputs resembling Mariah Carey’s perennial hit “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” It also offers a side-by-side comparison of music and lyrics, and notes that Mariah Carey soundalikes generated by Udio have already caught the attention of the public.

RIAA chief legal officer Ken Doroshow says Suno and Udio are trying to conceal “the full scope of their infringement.” According to the complaint against Suno, the AI company did not deny that it used copyrighted materials in its training data when asked in prelitigation correspondence, but instead said that the training data is “confidential business information.”

Many leading generative AI companies are under intense scrutiny for how they train their tools. It’s common for these companies to argue that they are shielded by the “fair use” doctrine, which permits infringement in certain circumstances. It remains to be seen whether the court system will agree; major players like OpenAI are already facing a host of copyright infringement lawsuits from artists, writers, programmers, and other rights holders.

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