Blockchain-based streaming platform Audius launched a new tool that would allow AI-generated works to populate its site, but they say it is only if an artist chooses to “opt-in.”
After a supposed AI imitation of Drake and The Weeknd called “Heart on My Sleeve” went viral and was subsequently taken down from major platforms last month, the music business has been scrambling to find ways to control the inevitable deluge of new AI songs that mimic the voices and styles of popular artists in the coming years.
Audius sees these incoming AI-generated tracks as a potential boon for the artist-to-fan connection, but it notes that’s only if the artist gives the OK first. As a press release notes, Audius sees its new offering as “an extension of the platform’s popular remix contests and other fan-artist music collaborations.” Now, artists can choose its “AI-Friendly” button on their settings page to create a separate AI-generated track section on the artists’ page, allowing fans to upload songs that were made by training on the artists’ work.
“As the curiosity around AI-generated music reaches peak levels, we’re hearing from more and more artists on our platform that they would like a way to interact with AI-generated tracks that were trained on their music,” says Roneil Rumburg, co-founder and CEO of Audius in a statement. “This is a way to enable artists who want to interact with AI music to do so in a way that protects their rights… This addition to the platform does make it possible for artists who want to participate in this exciting new artform to do so in a way where the metadata can be tracked and their rights can be protected.”
Though Rumburg adds, “it’s very important to emphasize that we in no way support AI tracks that are trained on Audius artists’ music and uploaded without their permission,” the soundalike Drake and The Weeknd track, “Heart On My Sleeve,” was available on Audius the morning of this announcement, despite UMG making a statement on April 17 which condemned the “infringing content created with generative AI.” However, after being alerted to the “infringing” track, Audius told Billboard it reached out to rights holders and the account was then removed within about an hour.
In January 2022, Billboard reported that Audius, blockchain-powered service, had an “abundance” of piracy on the platform. Label sources told Billboard that copious amounts of unlicensed content was found on the platform, but given that Audius itself doesn’t host any music itself. Instead, its music is uploaded to a network where the music will be hosted by node operators, third party providers that run servers. Because of this system, Billboard previously reported that the issue of who would have legal responsibility for the piracy and how Audius can properly surveil its content was not completely straightforward.
The story aligned with a previous story from The Verge that called the then-new startup a “copyright nightmare” in 2019, noting that its blockchain technology “can make piracy more of a headache,” given its lack of centralized moderation authority.
In a conversation with Billboard to explain the site’s updated safeguards against infringement and piracy, the company’s CEO noted that they adopted a two pronged approach in March 2022: Firstly, labels and artists can tell Audius that they do not wish to be on the platform. Once informed, an automatic scanning tool, which Rumburg likens to that of YouTube’s Content ID, is employed to prevent that artists’ work from getting on to the platform. Secondly, Rumburg notes there is a notice and takedown process done using manual email for any other content that may need to be removed.
“The content itself becomes unplayable immediately,” explains Rumberg. “So when a notice is received and acted upon that content is rendered unplayable instantaneously, but there is residual metadata that is searchable for a period. But if you try to play that song, it doesn’t work. it takes on average about an hour for the page itself to go away.”
When asked how Audius would monitor possible AI-generated content that uses an artists’ voice or likeness to further inappropriate lyrics or content, Rumberg said the notice and takedown process would be suitable for this as well.