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In an unprecedented demonstration of unity and concern, over 200 illustrious artists, including luminaries such as Billie Eilish, Nicki Minaj and Smokey Robinson, have issued a clarion call for the fortification of creative integrity and authorial rights in the face of burgeoning threats posed by artificial intelligence (AI), which harbors the capacity to “destroy the music ecosystem.” This appeal was articulated in an open letter disseminated on Tuesday, April 2, co-signed by other notable figures such as Katy Perry, Norah Jones, Camila Cabello, and the legatees of Bob Marley and Frank Sinatra, under the aegis of the Artist Rights Alliance.

Artists’ letter against IA’s creative threats articulates a pressing concern regarding the predatory utilization of AI to misappropriate the voices and likenesses of professional artists, infringe upon creators’ rights and undermine the music ecosystem. The signatories, including esteemed groups like Pearl Jam and REM, vehemently urge digital music platforms and services to refrain from developing or deploying AI-driven music generation technologies, content or tools that could potentially diminish or supplant the human artistry of songwriters and performers, or deprive them of equitable remuneration for their work.

The proliferation of generative AI technologies has ignited widespread apprehension regarding their potential to replicate the voices of renowned artists and, by extension, disrupt artistic creation. The signatories of the letter acknowledge the “enormous potential” AI holds for advancing human creativity. However, they raise alarms over the exploitation of their work without consent by some of the most powerful corporations for the purpose of training AI models.

In a pioneering legislative move last month, the State of Tennessee, a pivotal hub of the music industry due to Nashville’s influence, became the first in the United States to enact a law aimed at safeguarding music industry professionals from AI threats. Named the ELVIS Act (Ensuring Likeness, Voice, and Image Security Act), this legislation, which will come into effect on July 1, has been lauded by key stakeholders in the music industry. It specifically prohibits the generative AI tools from replicating an artist’s voice without explicit consent.

Similar legislative efforts are currently under consideration at the federal level in the US Congress, as well as in several other states. Furthermore, the music industry giant Universal Music Group has highlighted AI as a significant factor in the breakdown of its negotiations with the social media platform TikTok, resulting in the removal of UMG’s vast array of artists from the platform.

This collective initiative by the artists underscores a pivotal moment in the intersection of technology and creative rights, signaling a robust pushback against the unchecked advancement of AI in artistic domains. It marks a critical juncture in the ongoing dialogue about the implications of AI for creative industries and sets a precedent for the protective measures that may be deemed necessary to preserve the sanctity of human artistry in the digital age.