Music publishers ask court to halt AI company Anthropic’s use of lyrics

By Dawn Chmielewski

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Three music publishers are asking a federal court judge to issue a preliminary injunction that would prevent artificial intelligence company Anthropic from reproducing or distributing their copyrighted song lyrics.

Universal Music, Concord Music Group and ABKCO Music filed a motion Thursday asking for the court to require Anthropic to “implement effective guardrails” that would prevent the company’s AI models from reproducing or distributing the copyrighted song lyrics, and to prevent the company from using these works to train future AI models.

“While we can’t comment on the substance of the litigation, our focus remains the same — to build reliable, interpretable and steerable AI systems,” Anthropic said in a statement to Reuters.

The three publishers filed a suit against Anthropic on Oct. 18, which accused the San Francisco company of “systematic and widespread” infringement of their copyrighted song lyrics. The publishers claim Anthropic used the copyrighted lyrics to “innumerable” songs without permission as part of the “massive amounts of text” that it scrapes from the internet to train its artificial intelligence assistant, known as “Claude,” to respond to human prompts.

The suit alleges Claude generates identical or nearly identical copies of those lyrics when a user asks it to provide the lyrics to songs such as “Sweet Home Alabama” or “Every Breath You Take.”

Anthropic’s generative AI will even offer responses containing the publishers’ lyrics when asked a range of requests, including 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.”

Music publishers ask court to halt AI company Anthropic 's use of lyrics
FILE PHOTO: Anthropic logo is seen in this illustration taken March 31, 2023. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

For example, the lawsuit said that Claude will provide relevant lyrics from Don McLean’s “American Pie” when asked to write a song about the death of rock pioneer Buddy Holly.

The publishers allege Anthropic “profits richly” from its infringement of their repertoires of copyrighted works, achieving a valuation of $5 billion while paying “nothing” to publishers or their songwriters.

“Anthropic must not be allowed to flout copyright law,” the publishers said in a court document supporting its request for a preliminary injunction. “If the court waits until this litigation ends to address what is already clear — that Anthropic is improperly using publishers’ copyrighted works — then the damage will be done.”

The publishers have asked the court for monetary damages up of up to $150,000 per infringed work, and an order to stop the alleged infringement.