Universal Music vs. Anthropic: The AI copyright conundrum

Universal Music vs. Anthropic: The AI copyright conundrum

SASKTODAY’s newest columnist, Shelly Palmer has been named LinkedIn’s “Top Voice in Technology,” and writes a popular daily business blog.

Universal Music’s recent lawsuit against AI startup Anthropic underscores a pressing issue at the intersection of AI and copyright law. The suit alleges that Anthropic’s AI chatbot Claude reproduces copyrighted song lyrics almost verbatim, infringing on the rights of music publishers like Concord and Universal.

This isn’t just about song lyrics; it’s emblematic of a broader challenge. As AI models become more sophisticated, their ability to generate content that mirrors original work intensifies. Claude, for instance, can summarize a staggering 75,000 words, dwarfing the capabilities of its contemporaries like OpenAI’s ChatGPT.

The lawsuit draws parallels between AI and past technological advancements, from the printing press to web-crawlers, emphasizing that each innovation brought with it a responsibility to respect existing laws. The message is clear: AI’s potential shouldn’t exempt it from legal and ethical considerations.

I just typed “‘I will survive’ lyrics” into the Google search bar and got the lyrics perfectly displayed. Google isn’t paying anyone for surfacing the lyrics, and it was proud to tell me that it found “About 1,670,000 results (0.35 seconds)”, almost all of which were links to sites displaying the lyrics perfectly. Considering what you can find with a simple search, AI being able to surface a close approximation of song lyrics would seem to be the least of Universal’s copyright issues… but that’s not their point.

Recorded music companies look for revenue wherever it can be found – and they are quite litigious. It was the RIAA’s lack of vision and technological ineptitude that kept the music industry out of online revenue for 20 years. Let’s hope history does not repeat itself.

As always your thoughts and comments are both welcome and encouraged. Just reply to this email. -s sp@shellypalmer.com

P.S. We’ve added new content, insights, and resources to our Generative AI for Execs course to help keep you updated on the latest GenAI innovations. Get started (or dive back in) today.


Shelly Palmer is the Professor of Advanced Media in Residence at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and CEO of The Palmer Group, a consulting practice that helps Fortune 500 companies with technology, media and marketing. Named LinkedIn’s “Top Voice in Technology,” he covers tech and business for Good Day New York, is a regular commentator on CNN and writes a popular daily business blog. He’s a bestselling author, and the creator of the popular, free online course, Generative AI for Execs. Follow @shellypalmer or visit shellypalmer.com


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