Udio Complaint Entirely Based On Industry Infringing Its Own Lyrics

I am reading the Udio complaint right now. It is a little more than a “nothingburger” as the majority of users and IP lawyers have overwhelmingly noted. It is also an example of how to make a mockery of the justice system, beginning with basing an entire claim on self-serving evidence, more precisely all the evidence is based on intentional infringement of industry-owned lyrics. The only thing the plaintiffs are capable of proving with this lawsuit is how they hypothetically infringed their own lyrics, forced AI to further infringe their copyright through very precise instructions, and obtained a copyright infringing result. Several times.

If copyright law has ever been clear about something since the 18th century is not to copy other people’s texts without their consent. If you give AI infringing lyrics, it will come up with an infringing output, how surprising is that.

This lawsuit is a coaxing manual. How about, we copied the actual chorus from Michael Jackson’s Billy Jean lyrics and directed Udio to sound like Michael Jackson in as much detail and likeness as possible, and Udio made a song that resembles Billy Jean!!! So, the plaintiffs entered into prompt the excerpt “Billy Jean is not my lover, she’s just a girl who claims I am the one”. One can’t make this up. This is monumental bad faith and a waste of time of judicial resources.

Moving on, the plaintiffs copied word for word lyrics excerpts from All I Want For Chrismas is You (disclaimer: I can’t stand this song), inserted the infringed lyrics into the prompt and the name Mariah Carey along with other personal and artistic characteristics of the artist and again, the platform gave them exactly what they wanted, a copyright infringing result.

The exact same thing happened to other very old songs My Girl, I Get Around (Beach Boys), Dancing Queen (solely based on “we can dance we can jive”), American Idiot (interesting choice of song), as well as other holiday songs.

On pages 27, 28 we have an interesting “artist resemblance” table I deemed useful to reproduce as an example of exactly how NOT to make music with AI. I doubt that the great majority of AI users have the same desperate clinging to has-beens as the plaintiffs imagine. Don’t these overexposed artists already have thousands of copycats who have never heard of AI? The market was already saturated with these styles before the advent of AI. Also, the table doesn’t specify what lyrics were used in the prompt, so it is safe to assume that from the outset the lyrics were infringed like in the previous examples.

I hope you read that. It was quite funny. I have a few favorites in there. You ask AI to recreate a famous song by a band that rhymes with the smeetles, and OMG, AI sounds like the Beetles. Do you seriously expect a music AI platform had never heard of the Beetles or did you force the AI to go out of its way to find out about “smeetles” and which famous band rhymes with… Smeetles?!? I looked it up. It is not a word.

Words are the most important thing for LLMs. This is why you can’t ask ChatGPT or Claude to answer your emails, because they see each word in the email they need to answer as a prompt and the result is guaranteed nonsense. Each word inside the prompt (even someone else’s email) is interpreted separately as a part of an instruction, you must think like an algorithm for a minute and understand how a model interprets words.

Unless the model, like the latest Udio, is specifically programmed to ignore the artists names and rhymes thereof (eyeroll really), it will always try to reproduce as accurately as possible the instructions contained in words a human provides. This is why it will always be human users who will bear liability for AI’s output.

The complaint goes on to say that Udio copied other people’s vocals. I agree that it is the case and I agree it is not cool, but that’s the courts fault. There is little will to grant copyright to vocal performers, even in jurisdictions like Canada where vocal performances are specifically protected by the Copyright Act.

I spent 4 years in court trying to stop a label from remixing and selling my own vocal samples, and the only reason I won is because the contested vocals were attached to my own original lyrics in a distant slavic language, so it became eminently clear that the only way to enforce music copyright is to own the lyrics, something that continues being true in the field of AI.

The rest of the complaint adresses the fair use test, so that’s for the jury to decide. On a first sight, the main grievance appears to be the notion of “competition”. The industry is obviously diverting the fair use doctrine in order to enforce an anti-competitive monopole on all the musical loops in the world and trying to use the justice system to prevent any new music being made, unless they own the rights. That in my opinion is another sign this is an abusive lawsuit.

One thing I’m hearing from everywhere on this issue is that if the courts side with the music industry, nothing is in place to stop Russia and China to keep infringing the industry’s IP with the same tools, fair use or not, and they will flood us with their own commercial versions of AI generated output and will charge us for it, while our unsustainable music industry keeps dying anyway. There comes a moment when you just can’t afford to stifle innovation as a court.