In a landmark legal battle, Universal Music, ABKCO, and Concord Publishing have filed a lawsuit against Anthropic in a Tennessee federal court for alleged copyright infringement. The publishers contend that Anthropic unlawfully utilized lyrics from over 500 songs, including iconic tracks such as the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows," the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter," Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars' "Uptown Funk," and Beyoncé's "Halo," to train their chatbot, Claude.
The lawsuit alleges that Anthropic scraped massive amounts of text from the internet, including copyrighted material, to teach Claude to respond to a wide range of prompts. These prompts went beyond seeking lyrics and encompassed requests to write songs about specific topics, provide chord progressions, and even create poetry or short fiction in the style of various artists or songwriters.
One striking example cited in the suit is Claude's response to a prompt about Buddy Holly's tragic death, where it is claimed that the chatbot used lyrics from Don McLean's "American Pie." This is seen as a clear violation of the publishers' rights, as Claude reproduced copyrighted lyrics without obtaining proper authorization.
Representatives from Anthropic have not yet responded to requests for comment on the matter. Matt Oppenheim, the publishers' attorney, emphasized that copyright law firmly establishes that an entity cannot use someone else's copyrighted works to build its own business without obtaining permission from the rights holders.
This lawsuit marks the first major legal action against Anthropic, a company that has received substantial funding from industry giants like Google, Amazon, and prominent figure Sam Bankman-Fried, a former bitcoin tycoon. It also highlights a growing trend of authors and visual artists suing tech behemoths like Meta Platforms and Microsoft-backed OpenAI for utilizing their work to train generative AI systems.
In light of the alleged infringement, the music publishers are seeking both monetary damages and an injunction against further unauthorized use of their copyrighted material. This case has the potential to set a significant precedent in the ongoing debate surrounding copyright law in the age of advanced artificial intelligence.
Notably, this legal battle comes shortly after Amazon's substantial investment of up to $4 billion in Anthropic, underscoring the high stakes and complex legal landscape surrounding the use of copyrighted material in AI development. Both the tech sector and the larger creative community will undoubtedly be watching the case closely as it develops.