Interview: colleagues Erik & Sherlo share their insights on AI and the music industry

Licentie Interview: colleagues Erik & Sherlo share their insights on AI and the music industry

Overall, the consequences of AI for music creators can be quite positive. However, it is crucial for the industry and policymakers to be aware of developments and proactively work on appropriate regulations and supporting infrastructures to protect creators' fair compensation and other copyright issues.

Sherlo Esajas Manager Public Affairs

There is a lot of discussion about AI, and developments in AI in the music industry are advancing rapidly. We sat down with our colleagues Erik de Roo (International Relations) and Sherlo Esajas (Manager Public Affairs) and asked them a few questions about the recent developments in AI, the potential consequences for the music industry, and why this topic concerns BumaStemra.

A lot is happening in the field of AI in the music industry. Can you tell us about recent developments? 

Erik: Certainly, the past year has seen a tremendous acceleration in AI-related developments. The emergence of AI applications such as ChatGPT and generative AI like DALL-E, along with music generator Boomy, has not gone unnoticed. Despite offering promising new possibilities, concerns have arisen within the music sector regarding the unauthorized use of protected repertoire, possibly including that of BumaStemra, for training AI. These AI applications create new works based on user input through specific prompts but currently do so without permission or compensation. The extent to which AI is used determines whether the newly created works are subject to copyright protection. While laws in this area vary from country to country, the general consensus is that human interaction is a requirement for a work to qualify for copyright protection. 

Together with organizations like CISAC (International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers), we are exploring solutions, such as potentially prohibiting the use of protected repertoire for training purposes upfront. Subsequently, we will examine possibilities to do allow for such usage, but only with the author’s approval and through an appropriate license, ensuring consent and compensation. During this we are closely monitoring and following the guidelines formulated within the EU AI Act on this matter. 

Sherlo: The EU AI Act could be an essential first step in providing assurances to creators and the creative industry in the era of artificial intelligence. After intensive negotiations, the leaders of the Council and the European Parliament have reached a preliminary agreement on rules for artificial intelligence, known as the EU AI Act. Specific rules have been established for General Artificial Intelligence and so-called ‘foundation models‘, which are powerful AI systems capable of various tasks like creating videos, generating texts, images, multilingual conversations, calculations, and generating computer code. According to the preliminary agreement, these foundation models must adhere to certain transparency obligations before entering the market. This provides a basic framework, especially for the possibility of opting out of the TDM (Text and Datamining) exception. 

The political agreement still needs formal approval from the European Parliament and the Council. The AI law will come into effect two years after enactment, with some specific provisions taking effect earlier. For example, prohibitions will apply after 6 months, while rules related to General AI will take effect after 12 months. 

What is the reason for BumaStemra’s focus on this subject? 

Erik: As representatives of your copyright, we are not only responsible for licensing, collecting, and distributing on behalf of your compositions for the existing forms of music usages but also to have a flexible approach to emerging technologies that introduce new forms of usages. This ensures that your works are adequately represented globally, and that all forms of music usages are appropriately licensed. 

It is important to emphasize that lessons from the past, especially during the initial digital revolution in the ’90s, where illegal “piracy software” emerged that eventually lead to new (legal) forms of music usages through digital service providers like Spotify, have taught us the importance of moving with innovation, but to ensure that this is done in a proper and fair manner. 

Sherlo: Also, because the development of AI raises new questions and rules, it is important that we, as an organization, engage in the discussion and try to ensure that existing and potential new rules work well for our members. 

What could be the possible consequences of AI for music creators in the near future? 

Erik: The main issue currently is that the necessary regulations to guide these developments are not yet fully developed due to the rapid advancement of these technologies.  There are global efforts to frame these regulations, but regulatory measures inherently trail behind the pace of innovation. 

As mentioned earlier, the protected world repertoire is currently used for training these AI applications. Despite the recently approved regulations in the EU AI Act, there is a risk that these regulatory guidelines may come too late. This means that the datasets of AI applications have had ample time to operate outside regulatory guidelines, and they are already filled with repertoire without any form of permission or compensation. 

In the medium to long term, there is a risk that AI-generated music could compete with human creators due to AI applications being able to offer faster, more customizable, and cheaper alternatives. 

Of course, there are also positive consequences. AI can offer musicians many new possibilities within the creative process, and it makes the process of creating music itself more accessible, allowing more people to express themselves creatively. 

Sherlo: For example, AI technology can provide musicians with advanced creative tools, such as AI-assisted composition and production. Or AI can assist in understanding listener preferences and provide personalized recommendations, enabling creators and streaming services to reach a broader audience. Overall, the consequences of AI for music creators can be quite positive. However, it is crucial for the industry and policymakers to be aware of developments and proactively work on appropriate regulations and supporting infrastructures to protect creators’ fair compensation and other copyright issues. 

Why are we conducting a survey on this topic with our members? 

Erik: As representatives of our members copyright, we value their opinions and input greatly. It is crucial to understand how our members perceive this issue so that we can take it into account when determining our policy regarding AI. Additionally, it is essential to keep our members informed about all developments in this area, hence this interview.