A major record label used a copyright threat to force an AI-generated parody of Eminem offline—illustrating the legal gray areas generated media exists in as it becomes more popular. The move also highlights one of the ways some people are suggesting AI be reined in—by using copyright law.Universal Music Publishing Group issued a DMCA takedown notice against Youtuber Grandayy, claiming that the video, which uses an AI-generated version of Eminem’s voice to sing a ChatGPT-generated song about cats, infringes on its copyright.
The rap’s lyrics include bars such as “cats cats cats they’re always on the prowl/they’re sneaky and sly, with their eyes on the goal.” John Oliver featured the video on Last Week Tonight last month in a segment about AI.“I definitely think it was an extreme reaction, especially considering the fact that they didn't just block the video but they also sent a DMCA takedown, which gives my YouTube channel a strike,” Grandayy told Motherboard. “Since AI blew up in a relatively quick manner, the laws surrounding it are still ambiguous, so legally it's difficult to say for sure if they even have the right to block AI-generated content or not. But regardless of that, I still don't think it was right to take down my video and give my channel a strike, considering that the video was a satirical parody and was clearly labeled as AI-generated content (both in the title and the actual video itself).” For YouTube creators, copyright strikes are serious: getting three strikes results in a total ban of their channel, and erasure of all their videos. Copyright holders often opt to make Content ID claims, instead, which leave the infringing video up but redirects ad revenue made from the video to the owner of the copyright, instead of the uploader. Copyright laws allow for parody works as long as they’re transformative (along with a few other factors), and consider how the parody might affect the market for the original work. The Eminem Cat-GPT creation mimics the rapper’s voice and style, but doesn’t sample his songs. It's still remarkably unclear whether your own voice can be copyrighted, and several high-profile lawsuits over the ownership of AI-generated voices have been filed. A voice actor sued TikTok, for example, over the use of her voice for AI-generated voices on the app. That lawsuit was later settled. Some AI researchers believe that copyright law is the way forward in the debate between AI-generated art enthusiasts and artists. Most AI datasets, such as the ones powering ChatGPT and image generator Midjourney, are compiled by scraping the web for images and text, regardless of copyright and without credit to the original creators of those works. Last year, the music industry’s lobbying arm, the Recording Industry Association of America, claimed that AI posed a threat to artists’ rights.Grandayy, who primarily makes meme videos on YouTube, said that they see this as a sign that making AI-generated parodies has gotten risky. "On one hand I totally understand if copyright owners want to protect their art and take down videos that claim or insinuate that they were created by the artist themselves, or videos that try to mimic the original art and therefore compete with it.” they said. “But my video and so many others are just obvious fun transformative parodies that provide no harm to the original art—if anything they are probably of benefit to them—so it's sad to see a record label take down videos like this.”