Sony Music opts out of AI training for its entire catalog

picture of Beyonce who is a Sony artist
Enlarge / The Sony Music letter expressly prohibits artificial intelligence developers from using its music — which includes artists such as Beyoncé.

Kevin Mazur/WireImage for Parkwood via Getty Images

Sony Music is sending warning letters to more than 700 artificial intelligence developers and music streaming services globally in the latest salvo in the music industry’s battle against tech groups ripping off artists.

The Sony Music letter, which has been seen by the Financial Times, expressly prohibits AI developers from using its music—which includes artists such as Harry Styles, Adele and Beyoncé—and opts out of any text and data mining of any of its content for any purposes such as training, developing or commercializing any AI system.

Sony Music is sending the letter to companies developing AI systems including OpenAI, Microsoft, Google, Suno and Udio, according to those close to the group.

The world’s second-largest music group is also sending separate letters to streaming platforms, including Spotify and Apple, asking them to adopt “best practice” measures to protect artists and songwriters and their music from scraping, mining and training by AI developers without consent or compensation. It has asked them to update their terms of service, making it clear that mining and training on its content is not permitted.

Sony Music declined to comment further.

The letter, which is being sent to tech companies around the world this week, marks an escalation of the music group’s attempts to stop the melodies, lyrics and images from copyrighted songs and artists being used by tech companies to produce new versions or to train systems to create their own music.

The letter says that Sony Music and its artists “recognise the significant potential and advancement of artificial intelligence” but adds that “unauthorized use . . . in the training, development or commercialisation of AI systems deprives [Sony] of control over and appropriate compensation.”

It says: “This letter serves to put you on notice directly, and reiterate, that [Sony’s labels] expressly prohibit any use of [their] content.”

Executives at the New York-based group are concerned that their music has already been ripped off, and want to set out a clearly defined legal position that would be the first step to taking action against any developer of AI systems it considers to have exploited its music. They argue that Sony Music would be open to doing deals with AI developers to license the music, but want to reach a fair price for doing so.

The letter says: “Due to the nature of your operations and published information about your AI systems, we have reason to believe that you and/or your affiliates may already have made unauthorized uses [of Sony content] in relation to the training, development or commercialisation of AI systems.”

Sony Music has asked developers to provide details of all content used by next week.

The letter also reflects concerns over the fragmented approach to AI regulation around the world. Global regulations over AI vary widely, with some regions moving forward with new rules and legal frameworks to cover the training and use of such systems but others leaving it to creative industries companies to work out relationships with developers.

In many countries around the world, particularly in the EU, copyright owners are advised to state publicly that content is not available for data mining and training for AI.

The letter says the prohibition includes using any bot, spider, scraper or automated programme, tool, algorithm, code, process or methodology, as well as any “automated analytical techniques aimed at analyzing text and data in digital form to generate information, including patterns, trends and correlations.”

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