Nov 20, 2023 2 min read

Music publishers want preliminary injunction in legal battle with AI company Anthropic

The music publishers that sued Anthropic last month want a preliminary injunction stopping the AI company for generating outputs that include their lyrics

Music publishers want preliminary injunction in legal battle with AI company Anthropic

The group of music publishers that sued AI company Anthropic for copyright infringement has now asked the court to issue a preliminary injunction ordering the defendant to ensure that its current AI model does not generate outputs that disseminate their lyrics, and that those lyrics are not used in the training of any future models.

"If the court waits until this litigation ends to address what is already clear - that Anthropic is improperly using publishers’ copyrighted works - then the damage will be done”, state court papers filed in Nashville last week. “If unchecked, Anthropic’s wanton copying will also irreversibly harm the licensing market for lyrics, publishers’ relationships with licensees, and their goodwill with the songwriters they represent".

Universal Music Publishing, Concord and ABKCO together sued Anthropic last month claiming that the the firm has exploited, without licence, lyrics that they control when training its AI chatbot Claude. And, as a result, it is liable for copyright infringement.

There remains a dispute over the copyright obligations of AI companies. Copyright owners - like record labels and music publishers - insist that a tech company must get permission before using any copyright protected works to train generative AI models. But many AI companies reckon that such training is covered by copyright exceptions in at least some countries or - under US law - constitutes 'fair use'. Which means no permission is required.

In its recent submission to the US Copyright Office's review on AI, Anthropic stated that "the way Claude was trained qualifies as a quintessentially lawful use of materials". It then argued that, when it trains its AI model, "the copying is merely an intermediate step, extracting unprotectable elements about the entire corpus of works, in order to create new outputs. A diverse array of cases supports the proposition that copying of a copyrighted work as an intermediate step to create a non-infringing output can constitute fair use".

Arguments of that kind will be tested if and when the music publisher case gets to court. But obviously, for now at least, the publishers are being very bullish in their argument that the law is on their side and Anthropic is liable for copyright infringement.

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