Sony Music, the largest music publisher globally, has issued letters to tech giants Google, Microsoft, and OpenAI, demanding clarification on whether they have utilised its songs in the development of artificial intelligence (AI) systems. Representing renowned artists such as Beyoncé and Adele, Sony Music is adamant about prohibiting the unauthorised use of its music for AI training or profit generation.

In the communication addressed to over 700 firms, Sony Music expressed concerns, stating it has “reason to believe” that recipients “may already have made unauthorised uses” of its musical repertoire. The BBC reached out to Google, Microsoft, and OpenAI for their comments on this matter.

With a deadline for responses, Sony Music intends to enforce its copyright “to the full extent permitted by applicable law,” including the forthcoming EU’s AI Act, which is aimed at regulating AI technology.

This move by Sony Music contributes to a broader debate surrounding AI development and the data used for training. AI-powered tools, including chatbots and image generators, rely on vast datasets for training. Sony Music’s objection lies in the use of its copyrighted songs as part of these training datasets.

Both Google and OpenAI have developed AI tools capable of generating music, but the specifics of their training data remain undisclosed. Sony Music’s letter demands detailed information from recipients, including the songs used for AI training, the method of access, and the number and duration of any copies made.

While Sony Music is open to negotiating licensing agreements for future use, the legality of using copyrighted music for AI training is uncertain. Current EU regulations suggest that training AI models with copyrighted music could constitute copyright infringement unless it falls under fair use or is lawfully accessed and licensed.

Nana Nwachukwu, a lawyer specialising in AI ethics, highlights the forthcoming EU AI Act, which will mandate transparency and compliance with copyright laws for AI models. This legislation will require detailed disclosure of training data and adherence to copyright holder opt-outs.

Legal disputes over AI and copyright are already underway in the US, with cases involving notable figures such as George RR Martin and Sarah Silverman. Sony Music’s rival, Universal Music, has initiated legal action against AI firm Antrophic over alleged copyright infringement related to song lyrics.

As the intersection of AI and copyright law continues to evolve, these legal battles will likely shape the future of AI development and its relationship with copyrighted content.