College student pulls Drake AI deepfake model after threats from U.K. music industry

An AI company that is trying to recreate the voices of stars like Amy Winehouse and Drake is facing the might of the U.K. music industry in a landmark battle over how AI links up with the world’s biggest pop stars. 

The British Phonographic Industry (BPI), which represents four of the U.K.’s biggest record labels and hundreds of independent music companies, sent a cease and desist letter to AI music startup Voicify, claiming its use of copyrighted works was unlawful, The Times of London first reported.

Record labels are concerned that AI companies are using copyrighted music as training data for their models to create new works of art.

The BPI sent a letter to Voicify, now known as Jammable, telling it to stop infringing on copyright, accept the body’s allegations, or face a lawsuit.

It appears that Jammable, set up by Southampton University student Aditya Bansal, has buckled under that pressure.

According to a message on the group’s website, models that give listeners “deepfake” versions of Amy Winehouse and Drake have been removed from the platform.

A representative for Jammable didn’t immediately respond to Fortune’s request for comment.

Music industry strikes back 

Battle lines are being drawn in the music industry as creators brace for a tussle over their content being used by sophisticated models to make new forms of art. 

Bansal’s platform appeared to particularly irk the industry, as did the student’s boasting about the lucrative returns he was seeing from the platform’s 3,000 deepfake voice models.

In May last year, Bansal told the Financial Times that he was making “a lot” of money from his platform, charging between £1.99 and £89.99 for different subscriptions.

“Music is precious to us all, and the human artistry that creates it must be valued, protected and rewarded,” the BPI’s legal counsel Kiaron Whitehead told Fortune in a statement.

“But increasingly it is being threatened by deepfake AI companies who are taking copyright works without permission, building big businesses that enrich their founders and shareholders, while ripping off artists’ talent and hard work.”

The letter is a significant escalation in tensions between companies leveraging AI and creators, with the music industry now coalescing around the technology following a wave of individual spats. 

Gee Davy, COO of the Association of Independent Music, said: “The use of music without consent undermines artists ability to make a living from their music and has no place in the creative collaboration between music and AI, and it seems this has been the case with Jammable.”

It’s the latest development in an industry that is both trying to clamp down on AI’s expansion while also trying to profit from it.

Universal Music Group (UMG), which represents artists like Taylor Swift and Bad Bunny, is in a legal battle with generative AI company Anthropic, accusing it of distributing copyrighted lyrics through Claude 2, the group’s AI bot.

Record labels are simultaneously trying to work out how they can monetize the content themselves.

Last August, the Financial Times reported that UMG was in talks with Google to license artists’ melodies and voices to create AI-generated music, citing four people familiar with the matter. 

Artists are also starting to get in on the action.Musicians including John Legend, Sia, and Charlie Puth teamed up with YouTube last year to offer creators AI-generated versions of their voices to make new content.

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