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Universal Music and Other Publishers File Copyright Claim Against Amazon-funded Anthropic A.I.

— October 18, 2023

The lawsuit claims that Anthropic’s A.I.. program violates publishers’ copyright by returning near-identical lyrics in response to requests for information about different songs.

A coalition of music publishers have filed a lawsuit against Anthropic, an Amazon-funded A.I. company that attorneys say has illegally appropriated copyright-protected materials.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the complaint was filed earlier this week on behalf of Universal Music Group, Concord Music Group, and ABKCO.

Filed in a Tennessee-based federal court, the lawsuit claims that Anthropic engages in “systematic and widespread infringement” by copying and distributing lyrics from at least 500 songs. These include songs written by or for artists like Katy Perry, the Rolling Stones, and Beyonce.

The Reporter notes that this appears to be the first time a music publisher has filed a lawsuit against an A.I. company regarding the allegedly illegal use of lyrics.

“Anthropic has neither sought nor secured Publishers’ permission to use their valuable copyrighted works in this way,” the lawsuit alleges. “Just as Anthropic does not want its code taken without its authorization, neither do music publishers or any other copyright owners want their workers to be exploited without permission.”

The lawsuit includes evidence of “Anthropic’s mass copying and ingestion of Publisher’s song lyrics,” including excerpts from conversations with Anthropic’s “Claude” chatbot. When asked for the lyrics to Katy Perry’s “Roar,” for instance, Claude provided a near-identical, word-for-word copy.

Scales of Justice. Image via Flickr/user:mikecogh. (CCA-BY-2.0).

“There are already a number of music lyrics aggregators and websites that service this same function, but those sites have properly licensed Publishers’ copyrighted works to provide this service,” the lawsuit alleges. “Indeed, there is an existing market through which Publishers license their copyrighted lyrics, ensuring that the creators of musical compositions are compensated and credited for such uses.”

“By refusing to license the content it is copying and distributing, Anthropic is depriving Publishers and their songwriters of control over their copyrighted workers and the hard-earned benefits of their creative endeavors, it is competing unfairly against those website developers that respect the copyright law and pay for licenses, and it is undermining existing and future licensing markets in untold ways.”

Somewhat interestingly, attorneys also claim that “Claude” occasionally responds to prompts to create novel song lyrics by simply regurgitating actual compositions.

“What’s more, Anthropic’s AI models generate output containing Publishers’ lyrics even when the models are not specifically asked to do so,” the complaint says. “Anthropic’s Claude responds to a whole range of prompts that do not seek Publishers’ lyrics—such as requests to write a song about a certain topic, provide chord progressions for a given musical composition or short fiction in the style of a certain artist or songwriter—by generating output that nevertheless copies Publishers’ lyrics.”

The lawsuit seeks a range of remedies, including the payment of copyright infringement penalties, legal fees, and other damages.


Anthropic’s AI chatbot Claude is posting lyrics to popular songs, lawsuit claims

Universal Music Files $75M Lawsuit Against Amazon-Backed AI Firm for Ripping Off Rolling Stones, Beyonce Lyrics

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