Mon | May 27, 2024

Marley Estate, others sign open letter critical of AI’s ‘assault on human creativity’

A juggernaut that will continue to advance with a force – JAMMS general manager Evon Mullings

Published:Sunday | April 14, 2024 | 11:26 AMYasmine Peru - Sunday Gleaner Writer
FILE 
Evon Mullings, chairman of the Jamaica Music Society, said that many Jamaican music creators have already begun to feel adverse effects of AI on their livelihood.
FILE Evon Mullings, general manager of the Jamaica Music Society, said that many Jamaican music creators have already begun to feel adverse effects of AI on their livelihood.

Bob Marley, who died in 1981, is the top selling reggae artiste. His estate is among a list of powerful music industry entities and persons who are pushing back against the irresponsible use of artificial intelligence.
Bob Marley, who died in 1981, is the top selling reggae artiste. His estate is among a list of powerful music industry entities and persons who are pushing back against the irresponsible use of artificial intelligence.
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The estate of Bob Marley is among a list of powerful music industry entities and persons who are pushing back against the irresponsible use of artificial intelligence (AI) which, they say, has the potential to be “catastrophic” and could “degrade the value of [their] work and prevent [them] from being fairly compensated for it”.

In a stronglyworded open letter, released on April 1 from the non-profit, artiste-run organisation, Artists Rights Alliance, the more than 200 signatories noted that “when used irresponsibly, AI poses enormous threats to our ability to protect our privacy, our identities, our music, and our livelihoods”. The artistes want a pledge from all AI developers, technology companies, platforms and digital music services “that they will not develop or deploy AI music-generation technology, content or tools that undermine or replace the human artistry of songwriters and artistes”.

Noting that “some of the biggest and most powerful companies are, without permission, using our work to train AI models” the letter added that “these efforts are directly aimed at replacing the work of human artistes with massive quantities of AI-created ‘sounds’ and ‘images’ that substantially dilute the royalty pools that are paid out to artistes. For many working musicians, artistes, and songwriters who are just trying to make ends meet, this would be catastrophic.

“This assault on human creativity must be stopped. We must protect against the predatory use of AI to steal professional artists’ voices and likenesses, violate creators’ rights, and destroy the music ecosystem.”

Listed among the other signatories are Stevie Wonder, the estate of Frank Sinatra, Nicki Minaj, Jadakiss, Jon Bon Jovi, Camila Cabello, Zayn Malik, Jason Isbell, Katy Perry, Miranda Lambert, Noah Kahan, Imagine Dragons, Rosanne Cash, Arya Starr, Billie Eillish, Benny The Butcher, Hit-Boy and Doechii.

Bob Marley, who died in 1981, is the top selling reggae artiste. He ranked at number nine on Forbes Highest-Paid Dead Celebrities of 2023, after raking in US$16 million. Marley’s music continues to break records. As of this month, his album, Legend, which was certified 15-times platinum by the RIAA a decade ago, and is the bestselling reggae album ever, has spent 829 non-consecutive weeks on the US Billboard 200 albums chart. This is the second-longest run in the chart’s history. Legend has spent 1,128 weeks in the top 100 of the UK Albums Chart, making it the third-longest run in that chart’s history.

Evon Mullings, general manager of the Jamaica Music Society (JAMMS), a collective management organisation, told The Sunday Gleaner that AI technology “is like a juggernaut and will continue to advance with a force”. He sounded an alarm last year February at his organisation’s music conference and now states that many Jamaican music creators have already begun to feel adverse effects of AI on their livelihood.

‘AT WHAT COST?’

“Generative AI has astounding capabilities that can replicate the role of music creators with high degrees of accuracy; however, there is still some ways to go before sonic fidelity is comparable to that created by humans. The technology in all likelihood will get there sooner rather than later and so the philosophical question of ‘Whether in the artistic realm AI’s role should supersede humans and at what cost’ must be answered with urgency,” Mullings stated.

He singled out the dubplate segment of the industry as “facing possibly its biggest threat since this innovation started decades ago” and charged that unscrupulous persons are using AI technology to create dubplates through impersonation of the sound and likeness of even some top artistes.

“The threat however extends well beyond dubplates,” Mullings added.

He expressed concern about “the potential diluting effect that especially ‘100 per cent AI-generated music’ can have on royalties and used TikTok as probably the best example currently of how AI music can dilute royalties to human creators.

“This is currently one of the major accusations that TikTok is facing, as it is known to be heavily investing in AI technology and is actively doing pilots in the Australian, Singaporean and Mexican markets for its own AI-generated music content. The objective is for TikTok users to rely less on traditional sound recordings. Part of the end game therefore is that TikTok would pay less in copyright licence fees to record labels and music publishers for traditional human created sound recordings,” Mullings explained, adding, however, that his organisation does not have any commercial arrangements with TikTok.

Mullings stressed that JAMMS fully supports the Artiste Rights Alliance’s open letter and is going further by addressing elements of the problem seen as imminent even in the Jamaican context. JAMMS is preparing policy that will “guide revised eligibility criteria for music that existing members or prospective members would wish to register with us, for the purpose of earning royalties .... and is heading in the direction, where we will not accept music that are ‘100 per cent AI generated’ and where the ‘vocals are 100 per cent AI generated”.

Mullings shared that it may soon become obligatory for persons registering their music with JAMMS to declare whether the recordings are fully or partially generated by AI. He explained that the US Copyright Office has already implemented this rule and persons who fail to declare may find that their registered copyright claim may be considered null and void.

“These are effective and practical measures of protection at one level; however, protection must go much further. Legislative action will have to form part of the solution. We intend to put forward proposals very shortly, to the relevant government authorities, which we hope will inform laws aimed at providing protection of our human creators against AI. Possibly the most frightening prospect for our artistes and other creators is the impersonation of their likeness, sound of voice, and or image by AI technology which are then released for commercial gains by nefarious actors. As a principle, we believe in the value of human dignity, freedom from being replicated artificially, and right to a livelihood, and AI poses a real threat to those values. Entities such as JAMMS and influential individual voices in the local music industry will need to become much more active in advancing this cause for enlightened protection,” Mullings declared.

yasmine.peru@gleanerjm.com