If you spent any amount of time on the internet this week, you probably saw a lot of conversations about “Heart on My Sleeve.” The song went viral for featuring AI-generated vocals that do a good job of imitating Drake and The Weeknd singing about a recent breakup.
Listen to this AI generated song featuring Drake & The Weeknd.
It’s going so damn hard.
It’s from “Ghostwriter977” on TikTok and it’s blowing up on social media and streaming platforms.
UMG, which controls around 1/3 of the global music market, has already called on streaming platforms to ban… pic.twitter.com/roz2EfI48M
—Roberto Nickson (@rpnickson) April 16, 2023
On Monday, Apple Music and Spotify pulled the song following a complaint from Universal Music Group, the label that represents the real-life versions of the two Toronto-born artists. A day later, YouTube, Amazon, SoundCloud, Tidal, Deezer, and TikTok followed suit.
At least, they tried to comply with the complaint, but as always happens on the internet, the song can still be found on websites like YouTube. Before it was removed from Spotify, “Heart on My Sleeve” was a bona fide hit. People played the track more than 600,000 times. On TikTok, where the song’s creator, the aptly named Ghostwriter977, first uploaded it, users listened to “Heart on My Sleeve” more than 15 million times.
In a statement that Universal Music Group shared with publications like Music business around the worldthe label argued that training a generative AI using the voices of Drake and The Weeknd was “a breach of our agreements and a violation of copyright law”. The company added that streaming platforms had a “legal and ethical responsibility to prevent the use of their services in ways that harm artists.”
It’s fair to say that the music industry, like the rest of society, is now at a tipping point in its use of AI. While there are obvious ethical issues involved with the creation of “Heart on My Sleeve”, it is unclear whether this is a violation of traditional copyright law. In March, the US Copyright Office said that art, including music, cannot be copyrighted if it was produced by providing a text message to a generative AI model. However, the office left the door open to grant copyright protections to works with AI-generated elements.
“The answer will depend on the circumstances, particularly how the artificial intelligence tool works and how it was used to create the final work,” he said. “This is necessarily a case-by-case investigation. If the traditional elements of authorship in a work were produced by a machine, the work lacks human authorship and will not be registered by the Office.” In the case of “Heart on My Sleeve,” what complicates matters is that the song was written by a human being. It is impossible to say how a court challenge would play out. What is clear is that we are only the beginning of a very long discussion about the role of AI in music.