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Billie Eilish, Stevie Wonder, more sign letter calling for AI defenses

More than 200 musicians signed an open letter calling on tech and music companies to protect them from the irresponsible use of AI.
Billie Eilish, Stevie Wonder, more sign letter calling for AI defenses
Posted at 4:33 PM, Apr 02, 2024

Billie Eilish, Elvis Costello, Jon Bon Jovi, Nicki Minaj and Smokey Robinson are among more than 200 musicians who called out tech and music companies' use of artificial intelligence in an open letter Monday, saying the "assault on human creativity must be stopped."

The letter, headlined "STOP DEVALUING MUSIC," was issued by the Artist Rights Alliance, an artist-led nonprofit that advocates for musicians' rights to economic and creative freedoms. In it, musicians from around the world prompted "AI developers, technology company platforms and digital music services to cease the use of AI to infringe upon and devalue the rights of human artists."

While acknowledging the technology has "enormous potential to advance human creativity" when used responsibly, the statement asserts that some entities are already using AI to irresponsibly "sabotage creativity and undermine" people in music. 

Namely, the letter states some companies are using artists' work without their authorization to train AI models. This, the letter claims, is an effort to replace the musicians' art with AI-created content that would "substantially dilute the royalty pools that are paid out to artists" and be "catastrophic" for the many "just trying to make ends meet."

"Unchecked, AI will set in motion race to the bottom that will degrade the value of our work and prevent us from being fairly compensated for it," the letter says. "We must protect against the predatory use of AI to steal professional artists' voices and likenesses, violate creators' rights and destroy the music ecosystem."

Other artists supporting the call include Billy Porter, Camila Cabello, Darius Rucker, J Balvin, Kate Hudson, Katy Perry, Miranda Lambert, Norah Jones, Pearl Jam and the estates of Bob Marley and Frank Sinatra. The full letter and list of signees can be read here

SEE MORE: YouTube requiring creators to label 'realistic' AI content

The letter comes as the entertainment industry grapples with a changing technological landscape that largely kicked off with the world of streaming, both for TV/film and music. 

A deal between actors guild SAG-AFTRA and studios gave broad protections in dealing with artificial intelligence but still left members in the dark on whether their digital replicas could be used — a similar issue for musicians, who largely remain unprotected from the technology.

However, in March, Tennessee became the first state to include AI rules in legislation. Starting July 1, the ELVIS Act — or Ensuring Likeness, Voice and Image Security Act — will prohibit the use of AI to copy an artist's voice without their authorization. 

Plus, Universal Music Publishing Group has cited AI concerns as one reason it pulled its music from the app. In a statement, the group stated TikTok may be depriving artists from fair compensation by using AI models instead of copyrighted recordings. 

Now only time will tell if the protections these artists are pushing for will come through and, if so, whether the government — like in Tennessee — or entertainment-related companies — like UMPG — will be the ones to help them.

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