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Publishers Sue Anthropic AI Over Lyrics Use

Copyright Infringement Lawsuit Filed in Tennessee Federal Court

Misuse of Copyrighted Song Lyrics Alleged

In a groundbreaking legal action, music publishers Universal Music, ABKCO, and Concord Publishing have filed a lawsuit against artificial intelligence company Anthropic in Tennessee federal court. The lawsuit alleges that Anthropic infringed their copyrights by using lyrics from hundreds of popular songs, including hits from the Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones, Beyoncé, and Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars, to train its AI chatbot, Claude.

Songs Ranging from Beach Boys to Beyoncé Impacted

The publishers claim that Anthropic violated their rights by using lyrics from at least 500 songs without permission as part of the massive amounts of text that it scrapes from the internet to train Claude to respond to human prompts. The lawsuit cites specific examples of songs affected, including the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows,” the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter,” Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk,” and Beyoncé’s “Halo,” among others.

Copying Lyrics Without Permission

The publishers allege that Anthropic infringed their copyrights by copying the lyrics without permission and using them to train Claude to generate text, including song lyrics, poetry, and short fiction. They argue that this constitutes a clear violation of their exclusive rights as copyright holders to reproduce, distribute, and display their works.

Illegal Reproduction of Lyrics

The lawsuit further alleges that Claude illegally reproduces the lyrics by request and in response to “a whole range of prompts that do not seek Publishers’ lyrics.” This includes requests to write a song about a certain topic, provide chord progressions for a given musical composition, or write poetry or short fiction in the style of a certain artist or songwriter.

Claude’s Response to Prompts

As an example, the lawsuit highlights that Claude can provide relevant lyrics from Don McLean’s “American Pie” when asked to write a song about the death of rock pioneer Buddy Holly. This demonstrates Claude’s ability to access and reproduce copyrighted lyrics without permission from the rights holders.

Anthropic’s Non-Response

Representatives for Anthropic did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit. The company has yet to issue a statement or take any action in response to the allegations.

Copyright Law and Permission

Attorney’s Statement

Matt Oppenheim, the publishers’ attorney, declined to comment on the litigation but emphasized that it is “well-established by copyright law that an entity cannot reproduce, distribute, and display someone else’s copyrighted works to build its own business unless it secures permission from rights holders.” This statement underscores the legal basis for the publishers’ claims against Anthropic.

Similar Cases and Financial Backers

Authors and Visual Artists Lawsuits

In recent times, many copyright owners, including authors and visual artists, have filed lawsuits against tech companies like Meta Platforms and Microsoft-backed OpenAI for using their work to train generative-AI systems. These lawsuits have raised concerns about the unauthorized use of copyrighted material in AI training and the need for clear guidelines and regulations to protect the rights of creators.

Anthropic’s Financial Backing

Anthropic, founded in 2021 by former Google AI researchers, has received substantial financial backing from various tech giants and investors. In September 2024, the company received a significant investment of up to $4 billion from Amazon. Additionally, it has financial backing from Google, Amazon, and $500 million from former cryptocurrency billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried. This financial support has enabled Anthropic to develop and launch its AI chatbot, Claude.

Legal Actions Requested

Damages and Injunction Sought

The music publishers are seeking monetary damages from the court and an order to stop the alleged infringement. They argue that Anthropic’s actions have caused them significant financial harm by devaluing their copyrighted works and depriving them of potential licensing revenue. The publishers also seek an injunction to prevent Anthropic from further using their lyrics without permission.

Conclusion

This lawsuit marks a significant development in the ongoing debate over the use of copyrighted material in AI training. It is the first case involving AI’s use of song lyrics and the first against Anthropic, which has received substantial financial backing from various tech giants and investors. The outcome of this case will have significant implications for the use of copyrighted material in training AI systems and could set a precedent for future legal actions in this emerging field.

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