Just one day after Universal Music Group (UMG) forced the removal of an AI-generated “collaboration” between Drake and The Weeknd from YouTube and other platforms, duplicate versions of the unauthorized track are spreading like wildfire – and raising questions about how to effectively police artificial intelligence content moving forward.
Yesterday, Digital Music News highlighted the very real possibility of a ‘whack-a-mole’ situation involving unauthorized AI-generated songs. Now, just 24 hours later, after a multi-platform crackdown, Universal Music Group is chasing dozens of duplicates of an unauthorized AI-generated Drake/The Weeknd ‘collaboration’.
Before UMG ripped down the AI-created song, entitled “Heart on My Sleeve,” the original upload had racked up approximately 500,000 views on YouTube alone. That number was augmented by hundreds of thousands of views across streaming platforms like Spotify, with TikTok contributing potentially millions of views.
Evidently, the AI concoction sparked considerable fan interest, thanks to the realistic-sounding voices. Beyond YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music, TIDAL, TikTok, and others, the track has also been ripped down from (and re-uploaded to) several other platforms, including SoundCloud.
At the time of this writing, numerous “Heart on My Sleeve” duplicates were garnering serious interest on YouTube, with potentially millions of cumulative plays. Equally as important as the failure to eradicate the unofficial song is the overwhelmingly positive feedback the track is receiving. The scariest part of this episode is that the robot-written track isn’t just believable; it’s actually good. And fans are clamoring to listen to the song.
But who’s the shadowy ‘Ghostwriter’ who puppet-mastered this uncanny AI duet?
According to details shared with Digital Music News, the answer to that question is known to YouTube — and anyone with the right access credentials to Content ID. According to one source willing to toss a breadcrumb, an identifiable name is associated with the track, with proper instructions on where to send the monetization checks (we’ll keep you posted on what we find).
For now, the identity remains unknown to the general public, though the entire channel has been ripped down.
Of course, “Heart on My Sleeve” is hardly the only unauthorized song made via artificial intelligence. An abundance of works, ranging from new creations featuring depictions of prominent acts’ voices to existing tracks made to sound as though high-profile artists have covered them, can be found with a simple YouTube search for “AI music.”
Adding fuel to the fire is the possibility that performers who sound similar to commercially successful artists could lend their voices to AI systems down the line – though a non-AI soundalike voice spurred litigation just months ago.
Furthermore, Universal Music Group, presumably expressing the general position of the other major labels as well as smaller industry players, made clear its view that “platforms have a fundamental legal and ethical responsibility to prevent the use of their services in ways that harm artists.”
“We’re encouraged by the engagement of our platform partners on these issues — as they recognize they need to be part of the solution,” continued the label behind Toronto natives Drake and The Weeknd. The label also acknowledged its support for — and investments in — non-infringing AI technologies.
DMN spoke with a YouTube monetization expert about the continued on-platform presence of “Heart on My Sleeve,” and the individual noted that a “block policy” could “easily” be implemented against the work through the video-sharing service’s Content ID system. So why isn’t that happening?
Shifting to the bigger picture, however, the same expert said there’s been no indication of a broader Content ID algorithm update that would head off AI-generated songs. Indeed, ContentID is already obsolete in the face of AI-generated content — as is the underlying copyright law that supports it.