In a move that underscores the escalating tension between the music industry and artificial intelligence (AI), many of the world’s largest music publishers have filed a joint lawsuit against AI startup Anthropic over song lyrics. The suit alleges that Anthropic’s chatbot, Claude, scrapes lyrics from the publishers’ catalogs without permission and thereby infringes on copyrighted material. It serves as yet another example of generative AI companies facing increasing pressure over their use of intellectual property to develop the groundbreaking, generative AI technology.
The complaint alleges that Anthropic’s chatbot generates “identical or nearly identical copies” of the plaintiffs’ copyrighted lyrics. Two examples cited in the complaint are Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” and Katy Perry’s “Roar.” When prompted for lyrics to either song, Claude responds with a nearly word-for-word copy. The music companies argue that “this copyrighted material is not free for the taking simply because it can be found on the Internet,” emphasizing that Anthropic never attempted to secure a license for the lyrics.
The complaint also alleges that Claude infringes copyrighted song lyrics when asked to generate new content in the style of well-known artists. For example, when prompted to “write a short piece of fiction in the style of Louis Armstrong,” Claude generates text consisting mainly of the lyrics “What a Wonderful World,” which was first recorded by Armstrong in 1967 and remains one of his most iconic works.
While the lawsuit does not reference deepfakes, where AI has been used to create songs mimicking popular musicians, it reflects the increasing concerns of the music industry about the potential for generative AI technology. Some of the plaintiffs in the Anthropic case have been proactive in seeking to address these challenges. Among other things, they recently announced a partnership with the music platform BandLab to allow “ethical” use of copyrighted works in generative AI and are apparently also working with Google to license artists’ voices and melodies for the purpose of creating AI-generated songs.
As AI continues to advance, its intersection with various industries will inevitably lead to legal challenges. Many cases are currently making their way through the U.S. court system, but for now, there is little practical guidance on the many complex issues in this area. This latest case against Anthropic serves as a timely reminder for companies to tread carefully in this evolving landscape and consider thoughtful licensing of copyrighted works to prevent these issues from arising.