Universal Music Group Calls for AI Music Copyright Protection

The rise of AI-generated music has sparked concerns over copyright infringement, with Universal Music Group (UMG) calling on streaming services to block AI services from harvesting melodies and lyrics from copyrighted songs. According to a report from the Financial Times on April 13, UMG has been sending requests to take down AI-generated songs “left and right,” as they have been popping up on streaming services with increased frequency.

AI bots have had access to music catalogs on streaming platforms, which developers have used to train the technology. However, UMG has become “increasingly concerned” about AI bots using intellectual property to produce music identical to actual artists. A source close to the situation said that this next generation of technology currently emerging poses “significant issues.”

Until now, developers have used music catalogs on streaming platforms to train AI models. However, this practice could be problematic because AI-generated music could potentially infringe on the intellectual property rights of the original artists. For instance, AI could compose a song that resembles Taylor Swift’s lyrics, but with vocals and themes of other popular artists like Bruno Mars and Harry Styles. The output would be due to the fact that the AI has been trained on those artists’ intellectual property.

One Twitter user posted an example of an AI-generated song that features an AI-version of the famous rapper Jay-Z, which is almost indistinguishable from the real Jay-Z. The user said that as a fan of Jay-Z, he “enjoyed” the track but doesn’t know if he should feel “good or ashamed” for liking AI-generated music.

The issue could only be the beginning of what could be in store for the music industry in its fight against AI technology taking advantage of intellectual property rights. Along with AI-generated music on Twitter and popular streaming platforms, entire YouTube pages are popping up, remaking well-known music via AI technology.

In response to the issue, UMG has taken an artist-first stance, writing in emails to the streaming services that “we will not hesitate to take steps to protect our rights and those of our artists.” The same Twitter user also tweeted a clip of an AI model of Kanye West singing along to the tracks of rapper Drake’s song “Hold On.” Examples like this touch on the exact fears UMG is currently raising about streaming services.

Google has also announced its own machine-learning music apparatus called MusicLM, which will be able to generate “high-fidelity music from text descriptions.” The application has yet to be released; however, Google has released an entire page on GitHub of sample music generated with insights about how it was generated.

In conclusion, the emergence of AI-generated music has raised concerns over copyright infringement and intellectual property rights in the music industry. As AI technology continues to advance, it will be increasingly important to protect the rights of artists and ensure that their work is not being replicated without their consent.


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“Parody” Token Struck Down by Estate of J.R.R. Tolkien

Key Takeaways

  • The Estate of J.R.R. Tolkien has won an intellectual property dispute against a U.S. developer’s “JRR Token” project.
  • The developer was accused of trademark infringement and his defenses were rejected.
  • JRR Token NFTs remain on OpenSea, though these were minted after the complaint was already filed.

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The Estate of J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, has successfully won the intellectual property case it had filed against the developer of the JRR Token cryptocurrency. As a result, the Estate has won ownership of the project’s domain name and the developer will be required to delete infringing content. 

Tolkien Estate Wins IP Case

The Estate of J.R.R. Tolkien has won its intellectual property dispute against the developer of the JRR Token cryptocurrency, whom it accused of trademark infringement.

The JRR Token ($JRR) was launched in August of this year; the day after its launch, the Estate filed a complaint with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The project was accused of trademark infringement for deliberately imitating the style and substance of Tolkien’s work; an example is that one of the token’s stated aims was to “organize the people towards a common goal of making JRR Token ‘The One Token That Rules Them All’”—phrasing quite similar to the famous line from The Lord of The Rings, “One ring to rule them all.” 

The developer responded that the project was intended to be a parody rather than an act of bad faith and that the acronym “JRR” stood for “Journey through Risk to Reward” instead of John Ronald Reuel. Ultimately, the WIPO found that argument to be unpersuasive. 

The Estate’s lawyers also accused the U.S. developer, who had to pay  “significant” legal costs as a result of the ruling, of designing the jrrtoken.com website in a misleading way that might lead people to think that it was legitimately connected with the author or franchise. The Estate has historically been rather litigious and protective of its trademarks from perceived infringement; the Estate solicitor, Steven Maier, also said that it was “continually monitoring activity in the cryptocurrency and NFT” spaces for such instances.

As a result of the decision, the Tolkien Estate has recovered the domain name JRRToken.com, the project can no longer operate under that name, and the developer is required to delete all infringing content. However, at the time of writing, the token itself still appeared on Binance Smart Chain’s BSCScan, with 516 holders and a market cap of $0.

The project has NFTs on OpenSea associated with it, and while these were not included in the case brought to WIPO, this likely has to do with the fact that they were minted after the Estate filed its complaint. While many of these NFTs have been sent to burn addresses, others are still owned by active addresses.

Disclosure: At the time of writing, the author of this piece owned BTC, ETH, and several other cryptocurrencies. 

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Terra Virtua releases ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ NFTs to coincide with movie release

Nonfungible tokens seem to be popping up everywhere lately — so why not on the big screen?

Digital collectibles and virtual reality platform Terra Virtua is planning to launch today a line of Godzilla vs. Kong nonfungible token (NFT) collectibles created in collaboration with film production giants Warner Brothers — among the first-ever NFT drops to coincide with the release of a major film.

Currently, collectors can buy retro-themed Godzilla and Kong Island posters for 75$, but more elaborate animations will be released later today. The Terra Virtua homepage currently has a themed waitlist active, with users granted a ten-minute window on the site to make purchases.

Utility vs. recognizability

While Godzilla and King Kong are battling it out on the big screen, when it comes to NFT platforms it’s increasingly a race to see who can offer the most functionality, as well as gain access to beloved brands. 

Multiple VR and gaming projects are cooking new ways to add utility to NFTs. Ecomi, a rival VR-slash-NFT project has been flexing a slick “vault” feature on Twitter, where users can enjoy their collection in augmented reality:

Likewise, Terra Virtua is working on a “art gallery” VR feature. 

In addition to the technical push, many of these projects are building on the back of widely-loved intellectual property. Ecomi’s run from the Batman universe is a prime example, and the BBC dipped their toes into the growing market by collaborating with Reality Gaming Group on a Dr. Who card game. Perhaps the most headline-grabbing NFT project has been NBA Topshot, which features highlights from the National Basketball Association.

Warner Bros. opted for a promiscuous licensing strategy for Godzilla vs. Kong NFTs as well, as artist Bosslogic and collectibles giant Topps will also be releasing licensed digital memorabilia.

IP monopoly

When it comes to the breadth and quality of IP, however, Terra Virtua might stand alone. In addition to Godzilla vs. Kong, the company has put out drops with IP from blockbuster titles like Pacific Rim, World War Z, and Lost in Space, in addition to classics like The Godfather and Top Gun

Jen Naiff, Terra’s head of marketing, credits a “total legends” executive team with extensive deal and acquisition experience for the deep catalogue.

“Our CEO, Gary Bracey, is a BAFTA-nominated games industry veteran with 25+ years of experience and is credited with bringing movie IP computer games to the mainstream. Doug Dyer, while at Warner Bros, fly to Scotland to demo and get approval from J.K. Rowling on the Harry Potter videogame he developed,” she said.

As a result, identifying and getting access to exclusive IP is “in our DNA.”

Ultimately, getting access to these brands is key not just to the growth of their platform, but also to the space as a whole.

“As an industry, we need to make sure we’re telling the right story about NFTs to the world outside of crypto land so that ownership of a digital collectible becomes as natural as asking Google, Alexa or Siri to play your favourite tune now is.”