Navigating the Legal Implications of AI-Generated Music & Copyright

Production & Music Industry
Updated on
July 14, 2023
Written by
Unchained Music
Explore the intricate interplay between Intellectual Property, Artificial Intelligence and the Music Industry as AI-generated music raises critical questions on copyright.

Navigating the Legal Implications of AI-Generated Music & Copyright

Artificial Intelligence in the Music Business

In the contemporary music landscape, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has gained momentum and stirred up legal quandaries, particularly regarding Intellectual Property in the music industry.

A recent incident involving a track titled 'heart on my sleeve' by an artist known as "Ghostwriter" highlighted the capabilities of AI in music generation, while music distribution companies such as Unchained Music have highlighted the power of AI Mixing and Mastering. The track was taken down from streaming services as it astonishingly mimicked the voices of world-renowned stars Drake and The Weeknd through AI manipulation. This incident is one among many that underscores the pressing need to understand the intersection of AI-generated music and copyright.

As AI technologies become more sophisticated, the fidelity with which they can replicate voices and musical styles raises numerous questions. In the case of 'heart on my sleeve,' the uncanny likeness to Drake and The Weeknd’s voices not only triggered legal concerns but also delved into moral territory, with industry heavyweights such as Universal Music Group, other major labels, and various music publishing entities calling for an immediate evaluation of the music companies and entire industry of AI music as it related to streaming platforms.

AI and the Music Industry: A Technological Symphony

AI as a Creative Force

AI has become a significant player in the music industry with music AI researchers pushing the boundaries of creativity. While empowering artists and producers with innovative tools, it also raises questions about its impact on traditional practices such as live music, performance, and the current vetting of music distribution companies.

Composition and Recording

AI-Generated Compositions

With AI systems such as OpenAI’s MuseNet and AIVA, it’s possible to generate entire compositions in various styles, and in fact, certain record labels have taken it upon themselves to capitalize on this opportunity for farming streams on various streaming services. These tools can create original scores based on input parameters like genre, tempo, mood, and of course, the training data being used by these music models.


AI-generated compositions offer several benefits including quick content creation for artists and record companies, provision of creative inspiration to human composers, and accessibility for those who might not have traditional musical training.


However, determining the originality and ownership of AI-generated compositions is complicated. Questions about whether these compositions qualify for copyright protection, and if so, who should be attributed as the author, need to be addressed. Of course, various facets of the recording industry would love to be compensated when they represent an artist that is being used for training these ai models. This puts streaming services and large record labels such as Universal Music Group in a bind. How does one represent whether a release has used training data, when the data that moves with the release doesn't include whether it was made via deep learning or human intelligence and creativity?

Manipulating Recordings

AI can also manipulate existing audio recordings. Tools like Descript’s Overdub and Modulate allow users to edit and modify voices in audio recordings. These tools and ones like them employ advanced algorithms to make minute changes to audio files, such as altering the pitch, speed, and tone of voices. Moreover, they can remove unwanted sounds and clean up recordings for clearer output.

For musicians and podcasters in the music business, this technology can be invaluable in producing high-quality content without the need for expensive studio time or equipment. Furthermore, in film and animation, these tools can be used for dubbing, allowing characters to speak in different languages without losing the essence of their original voices.

Deepfake Voices

One of the more controversial applications is the creation of "deepfake" voices that can mimic real people, including deceased musicians. This technology can be used for posthumous releases and to replicate an artist’s voice in new compositions. The level of realism in these synthetic voices is sometimes so high that it can be difficult to distinguish them from the original.

Beyond music, deepfake voices have also been used in film and audiobooks, providing the ability to bring historical figures to life or allow actors to perform in languages they don't speak. However, the use of deepfake voices can be contentious, as it raises questions regarding authenticity and the preservation of an artist's unique voice.

Ethical Implications

Deepfake voices raise ethical questions regarding consent and the preservation of an artist’s legacy. Additionally, using the voice of a deceased artist might be seen as exploitative by some. There is a moral dilemma in using someone’s voice, especially if they are no longer alive to give consent. Furthermore, it may be considered disrespectful to the artist’s legacy if their voice is used in a manner that they might not have approved of. What happens when an ai-model is performing 'live music' in front of a crowd when the original artist is no longer around?

The technology also raises questions about authenticity and the value of human creativity when a machine can replicate a human's unique voice. Traditionally, an artist’s voice has been seen as an embodiment of their identity and emotional depth, reflecting personal experiences and creative nuances. When AI manages to convincingly imitate such an integral aspect of an artist’s craft, it challenges the conventional notion of authenticity in art. The audiences often connect with music on an emotional level, and knowing that a certain piece is generated by a machine might affect this connection. Moreover, if AI-generated voices and music become indistinguishable from human-created content, this could have ramifications on the perceived value of human creativity. Artists might find it increasingly difficult to distinguish themselves in a market where AI can create countless tracks in an instant.

This issues could ultimately lead to questions regarding the intrinsic value of human touch in music and whether audiences will continue to see live music and hold human artistry in the same regard as before.

Legal Implications

Legal challenges include the potential infringement of personality rights and the unauthorized use of an artist’s voice, which could be protected as a performance under some legal systems.

In several jurisdictions including the US, the voice of an individual is considered part of their personality and likeness rights, and using it without permission could be seen as an infringement. Additionally, there may be copyright issues if the AI-generated performance closely mimics the style and expression of an existing copyrighted work.

The rapidly evolving nature of this technology necessitates a reevaluation and likely reform of existing legal frameworks to address the unique challenges posed by AI-generated content and deepfake voices.

Recorded Music Industry Disruption

AI-generated music can be both a boon and a bane for the music industry. On one hand, it opens up new avenues for creativity and democratizes music production. On the other hand, it brings forth challenges in terms of copyright, royalties, and the value of human-created recorded music itself.

Opportunities for New Artists and Creators

AI tools have the potential to democratize music creation by providing aspiring artists and creators with the means to produce high-quality content without extensive resources or training, leading to a more diverse and vibrant music landscape. Independent musicians can use AI to compose background scores, generate lyrics, or even create full compositions which they can further develop. This lowers the barriers to barrier for new talents who might not have access to traditional music production resources. Additionally, the technology can be a valuable aid for experienced musicians, helping them to experiment with new sounds and styles.

AI Music and Market Saturation

The lowering of barriers to entry for new talents through AI, which provides them with access to music production resources, has the potential to lead to a content explosion. Traditionally, creating and producing music required significant investment in terms of time, money, and access to recording studios and instruments. However, with AI-based tools, individuals can now generate high-quality music using just a computer and software, bypassing many of the historical hurdles.

This democratization of music production and digital distribution can empower a vast number of aspiring artists around the world, who might have previously been constrained by limited resources. As these artists start to create and release music, there could be an exponential increase in the volume of content available. This content explosion not only provides audiences with a richer and more diverse array of music to choose from but also presents challenges in terms of discoverability and market saturation.

Concerns for Established Artists and Rightsholders

On the flip side, established artists and rightsholders have concerns regarding AI’s potential to cause “widespread and lasting harm.” There is a fear that AI-generated music might saturate the market, making it more difficult for human creators to stand out. Additionally, there is concern over the dilution of artistic integrity, as AI-generated music might lack the emotional depth and cultural context that human composers bring. Rightsholders are also apprehensive about how the proliferation of AI in the recorded music industry might alter the legal landscapes, especially concerning copyrights and royalties.

Potential Copyright Infringement

If an AI system inadvertently creates a composition similar to an existing work, it could lead to copyright infringement claims. This is particularly problematic as AI tools often learn from existing compositions, which could subconsciously influence the music they generate. Determining liability in such cases is challenging since AI systems do not have legal personhood. There is also a gray area regarding whether these compositions should be considered original works, or derivative, and how they should be treated under current copyright laws.

Impact on Music Royalties

With AI-generated music potentially flooding the market, it could drive down the value of music and affect the income streams for human creators. There are concerns that if AI-generated compositions are not attributed to human authors, they might not be subject to the same licensing fees and royalties, undercutting human creators. This could disrupt the traditional revenue models in the music industry. Furthermore, there is an ongoing debate about whether AI-generated music should be eligible for royalties and, if so, how those royalties should be distributed. Some argue for the creation of a new royalty system specifically tailored to AI-generated content, while others believe that existing models can be adapted to the new landscape.

This ongoing conversation is heated on both sides, with arguments closely following the availability of AI-detection mechanisms. Afterall, if no one can detect AI-music, it doesn't matter whether that music should receive a different royalty rate.

Copyright Protections: Navigating a Legal Maze

The Concept of Originality in Copyright Law

Under English copyright law, AI-generated works can be protected if they qualify as original. However, the ambiguity in the definition of "originality" creates uncertainty. English law initially defined originality as "skill, judgment, and labor," but recent EU directives introduced a higher standard, that of the "author's own intellectual creation". This is all to contrast the USA's "modicum of originality" for copyrighted works which requires sufficient human authorship to be eligible for music copyright.

AI-generated music presents a challenge in establishing originality, as many believe that without a human author, AI-created works cannot meet this higher standard. The legal framework in the UK is currently uncertain and still evolving in this regard.

Ownership and Rights in the Recording Industry

In cases where AI-generated sheet music is protected by copyright, the question of ownership arises. Under English law, the author of a computer-generated work is considered the person who undertakes the arrangements necessary for the creation of the work. However, this raises questions when AI tools are involved, particularly regarding the ownership between the user and the creator of the AI tool.

Voices and Intellectual Property

Deepfake vocal synthesizers, an innovation in AI technology, can make a singer's voice sound like a famous artist. Under English and EU law, it is unlikely that a style of singing, whether generated through deep learning, AI or vocal imitation, is protectable by copyright. However, other forms of intellectual property, such as passing off, may be relevant in some jurisdictions.

Potential Copyright Infringement and Text & Data Mining

AI-generated music may inadvertently copy specific melodies or lyrics, leading to copyright infringement. One of the ways AI learns to imitate musical styles is through Text and Data Mining (TDM), which involves training on large amounts of data present throughout the supply chain within the music industry. Depending on the jurisdiction and the nature of TDM, copyright infringement issues can arise leading to potential suits by music companies that act to protect rights holders, particularly if permanent copies of complete recordings are made without a license.

The Future Outlook

With AI becoming an integral part of the Music Industry, there is a need for a coherent legal framework that addresses the challenges posed by AI-generated music on both the recorded music and via music publishers. This should include clear guidelines on originality, ownership, rights management, and possible infringement. Additionally, as the industry moves forward, it will be essential to strike a balance between encouraging innovation and protecting the rights and interests of human creators and stakeholders.

Legal Adaptation and Evolution

As AI technology continues to evolve, legal frameworks must adapt to address new challenges. Countries around the world may need to re-evaluate their copyright laws to consider the nuances introduced by AI in content creation. This may involve creating new categories of work or establishing specific provisions for AI-generated content. It will be essential to ensure that these laws are flexible enough to accommodate future technological advancements while still providing adequate protections for creators.

International Collaboration

Given the global nature of the music industry, international collaboration is essential. International organizations like the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) could play a pivotal role in facilitating discussions and drafting international standards or treaties that address the specificities of AI-generated music. Harmonization of laws across different jurisdictions will be crucial in addressing cross-border issues and providing a consistent framework for rights management in a globalized industry.

Ethical Considerations

Beyond legal concerns, the use of AI in music creation raises ethical questions. For example, should AI be allowed to replicate a deceased artist’s voice? This not only has potential legal implications but also questions about moral rights and respecting the legacy of artists. Stakeholders in the music recording industry will need to engage in discussions about the ethical boundaries of AI, considering not just the legality but also the impact on cultural heritage and the values that society wants to uphold.

Educating Stakeholders

Educating musicians, producers, and consumers about the potential legal ramifications of using AI in music creation can help preempt disputes. This education should include an understanding of copyright laws and how they apply to AI-generated content. Also, it is vital to educate AI developers on the ethical implications of their creations, encouraging responsible innovation that respects artists' rights and cultural values.

Licensing and Royalties

One possible approach to address the copyright issues surrounding AI-generated music is through licensing agreements. For instance, the developers of AI tools could enter into licensing agreements with rights holders and music publishers, ensuring that any AI-generated content that mimics existing works is adequately compensated.

Moreover, the industry could explore new models for royalties distribution, which take into account the contributions of both AI and human creators. This could help ensure that original creators are fairly compensated, even as AI and machine learning continues to play a larger role in content creation.

The Role of Technology

Technology itself can be part of the solution. For example, blockchain technology can be used to manage rights and royalties more efficiently. By using blockchain, it is possible to have transparent and immutable records of ownership and rights for AI-generated music. This can streamline royalty payments and make it easier to track the use of content.

In addition, technologies like content recognition systems can be utilized to monitor and manage the use of music online and social media, ensuring proper attribution and compensation for creators. As the music industry continues to evolve with AI, it will be essential to leverage technological innovations to support fair and sustainable practices.


The advancement of AI in music generation presents exciting possibilities for creativity and innovation, but also introduces a host of legal and ethical challenges.

Balancing the interests of creators, AI developers record labels, and consumers requires an evolving legal framework, international collaboration, education, and potentially new technological solutions. As AI continues to reshape the music industry, stakeholders must engage in open dialogue and work together to navigate the intricate interplay between intellectual property, technology, and creativity.




April 14, 2024
How to Nail Your Performances Every Time: A Musician's Guide
February 21, 2024
Deconstructing Remixes: The Anatomy of a Masterful Remix
August 10, 2023
Understanding Musical Royalties: A Comprehensive Guide to Rights and Payments


July 11, 2023
Exploring Music NFT Companies and NFT Marketplaces
June 28, 2023
Exploring Decentralized Music Platforms: 5 Impressive Web3 Music Streaming Services
March 7, 2023
The Top 10 Free Music Distribution Services for Independent Artists


January 23, 2024
Understanding the Apple Music Style Guide
July 25, 2023
How to Clear a Copyright Claim with Unchained Music
July 19, 2023
Getting You Music On Spotify Playlists in 2023