Over the past year, new artificial intelligence tools and services have been surfacing everywhere.
This AI boom followed the success of ChatGPT and many people believe these recent developments are just the beginning.
While entrepreneurs and the public at large are mostly focused on the new possibilities the technology offers, many copyright holders are focused on potential threats. This includes the music industry’s anti-piracy arm, the RIAA, which previously took action against a popular AI-related Discord server that was shut down last week.
Artificial intelligence also makes an appearance in the RIAA’s latest overview of foreign sites and services that present copyright and other intellectual property challenges.
Responding to a request from the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR), the music group added “AI Vocal Cloning” as a new category in its annual overview of ‘notorious’ piracy markets.
“The year 2023 saw an eruption of unauthorized AI vocal clone services that infringe not only the rights of the artists whose voices are being cloned but also the rights of those that own the sound recordings in each underlying musical track.
“This has led to an explosion of unauthorized derivative works of our members’ sound recordings which harm sound recording artists and copyright owners,” the RIAA reports.
The music group sees vocal cloning websites as a broader problem, but mentions just one service by name; Voicify.ai. With over a million monthly visits this is one of the largest players, with subscription fees starting at $7.99 a month.
Voicify focuses on AI covers and allows users to create a new version of a track by simply adding a YouTube link and picking a voice model. The voice models mimic popular artists such as Ariana, Bruno Mars, Elvis, Eminem, and Taylor Swift, but Donald Trump and Spongebob are popular options too.
This site promotes itself as the “#1 platform for making high quality AI covers in seconds!” but the RIAA mainly sees copyright troubles with the Amazon-hosted service.
Rights of Publicity
According to the RIAA’s description, Voicify effectively stream-rips YouTube music videos. It then separates the acapella track and uses the AI voice model to alter that, after which it is added to the underlying musical bed to create the cover.
The RIAA believes that ripping YouTube tracks is a violation of the DMCA and using a voice model to create a derivative work is problematic too. On top of that, the voice models infringe the artists’ rights of publicity.
“This unauthorized activity infringes copyright as well as infringing the sound recording artist’s rights of publicity,” RIAA writes.
This ‘publicity’ right allows artists to control how their names, images, and likenesses are used in a commercial setting. That could also apply to their voices when exploited by a third party.
Evolving AI Challenges
This isn’t the first time that AI voice models have been called out. Earlier this year, Sony Music raised concerns about AI vocals and an AI-generated collaboration between ‘Drake’ and ‘The Weeknd’ was silenced over copyright concerns around the same time.
The RIAA arrived at the party early. Before the ChatGPT boom started, the music group had already signaled AI as an emerging threat. At the time, it was concerned with tools that could extract vocals or music beds, but those are old news today.
At the pace that new services are being rolled out today, Voicify might also be horribly outdated again a year from now. However, AI concerns are unlikely to dissipate anytime soon.
Traditional Piracy Threats Remain
Aside from the emerging AI threat, the RIAA remains concerned over more traditional piracy tools as well. This includes torrent sites such as The Pirate Bay and 1337x, as well as stream rippers, direct download portals, and cyberlockers.
Similarly, bulletproof hosting companies such as FlokiNET and PRQ are awarded with a “notorious” mark and the same applies to domain name privacy provider Njal.la and alternative app store Aptoid.
The RIAA’s full list of “notorious” sites and services can be found below, and the full report is available here (pdf)
The cursive listings are new this year and those that were removed are crossed out. The RIAA stresses that these are mere examples as this is a non-exhaustive overview.
– flvto.biz and 2conv.com
– y2mate.com (and related sites yt1s.com, 9convert.com, and tomp3.cc)
– savefrom.net (and related site savef.net)
– Snaptube app and related domains
– tubidy.watch (tubidy.mobi, tubidy.com, tubidy.buzz, tubidy.ws9)
Music Download Sites
BitTorrent Indexing Sites
– 1337x.to and mirrored at 1337x.is, 1337x.se, 1337x.st, x1337x.ws, x1337x.eu, and x1337x.se)
– onlyfiles.io Unauthorized Short Form Video Services
AI Based Extractors/Mixers
AI Vocal Cloning
– Bulletproof ISPS: PRQ, FlokiNET, Frantech Solutions/BuyVM/PONYNET, DDoS Guard.
– Nigerian-Operated Infringing Sites: thenetnaija.net, trendybeatz.com, justnaija.com, 24naijamuzic.com and bazenation.com.
– Other intermediaries: Njal.la, A-Ads/Equativ, Softonic/Aptoid.