UK record industry trade group BPI has threatened legal action against Voicify, the UK-based company that operates, in its own words, "the number one platform for making high quality AI covers in seconds". The vocal clone service, the BPI claims, has been built on the infringement of its members sound recording copyrights, and to that end it sent a formal legal letter to the company last month. 

“The music industry has long embraced new technology to innovate and grow, but Voicify - and a growing number of others like them - are misusing AI technology by taking other people’s creativity without permission and making fake content", says BPI General Counsel Kiaron Whitehead. "In so doing, they are endangering the future success of British musicians and their music". 

Voicify was referenced last year when the Recording Industry Association Of America made a submission to the US government's annual Notorious Markets review of piracy services, the first time an AI-powered vocal cloning service had been formally included in the music industry's piracy gripe list. 

It explained how users upload a track to Voicify, usually via a YouTube link, and then the service generates a new version with vocals that sound like they were sung by a different artist. 

The RIAA submission stated, "The service stream-rips the YouTube video selected by the user, copies the acapella from the track, modifies the acapella using the AI vocal model, and then provides to the user unauthorised copies of the modified acapella stem, the underlying instrumental bed, and the modified remixed recording". 

In copyright terms, rights are infringed multiple times. The AI vocal model for each artist will have been trained with recordings by that artist, which means those recordings had to be ingested and therefore copied. Plus, when ripping and processing the track selected by the user, the rights in the selected track are being infringed too. And, of course, song rights are being exploited as well as the recording rights. 

With that in mind, the Music Publishers Association - and other music industry trade groups - are backing the BPI in its battle with Voicify. MPA CEO Paul Clements says, “The unethical use of AI by platforms such as Voicify threatens not only the livelihood of creators but also the trust of music fans".  

“For artificial intelligence to be successful for the UK music industry and the UK economy", he adds, "we require a responsible cooperative approach by all stakeholders, working in tandem and not aiming for the short term gain for individuals abusing the system at the expense of the UK creative industries and the UK as a whole.”

The BPI sent a letter to Voicify threatening legal action last month, and it's thought the company made some changes to its functionality after receiving that letter. 

It also rebranded its service as Jammable, though - according to Voicify itself - the name change was designed to represent "our move away from just being an 'AI Voice Platform', as we explore and offer new experiences for our users". 

What happens next legally speaking will depend on Voicify’s formal response to the BPI's letter. Legal action could follow. It is understood that the trade group is yet to receive a formal response, although there has been a request for more time from the AI firm’s legal reps. 

We know that many AI companies have argued that they do not need permission to use copyright protected works to train generative AI models, relying on copyright exceptions in certain jurisdictions, or the fair use principle under US law. However, the strength of that defence depends on where a company's servers are based, the specifics of what any one company does with the music, and what precedents are set in test cases in court. 

With voice cloning, there is also potentially a legal claim beyond copyright, with an artist's publicity or personality rights also arguably infringed. Although UK law doesn't currently provide publicity rights, which is why the focus of the Voicify dispute will likely be copyright. 

That said, services like Voicify add more urgency to calls by the music industry for a publicity right to be introduced into UK law, something that was included in AI manifestos published by both UK Music and the Council Of Music Makers.

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