An AI-generated song that emulates the vocal styles of Drake and The Weeknd has sparked a new copyright debate in the music industry. The controversial track, titled “Heart On My Sleeve,” was created by TikTok user Ghostwriter977 and garnered 275,000 plays on YouTube and 625,000 plays on Spotify before being taken down.
Universal Music Group (UMG), the parent company of Republic Records, which represents both artists, demanded that major music platforms—including Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube, Amazon Music, and SoundCloud—remove the song, arguing that its distribution constitutes copyright infringement.
A spokesperson for UMG told the BBC that using artists’ music for generative AI training breaches agreements and copyright law. They further stated that hosting infringing content on digital service providers forces stakeholders to choose between supporting artists, fans, and creativity, or enabling deep fakes, fraud, and unpaid artists.
Although Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects streaming platforms like Spotify, Apple, and YouTube from legal liability for content uploaded by third parties, they must comply with valid copyright takedown requests. “Heart On My Sleeve” was uploaded to Spotify and YouTube on April 4, and despite its removal by YouTube, fans continued to reupload the song, attracting even more listeners. This created a game of whack-a-mole as the streaming giant tried to comply with UMG’s request.
Andrew Rossow, legal attorney and CEO of AR Media, explained to Decrypt that an artist or record label’s legal recourse in pursuing a lawsuit depends on several factors, including which country would have jurisdiction over the infringement case. He compared the situation to the era of music piracy, in which humans were involved and could generally be traced to a physical location to satisfy the jurisdictional requirement for filing a lawsuit.
The trend of incorporating AI-generated vocals of musicians in albums seems to be gaining momentum. Last week, another AI-generated project, “AIsis – The Lost Tapes” by British rock band Breezer, featured the computer-generated voice of Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher performing Breezer’s songs.