A day after a singer-songwriter duo serenaded more than 70 members of Congress with the 1980s synth-pop single “Human” on Capitol Hill, composers from across the country urged lawmakers to offer regulatory protections for human musicians in the face of increasingly powerful AI programs now generating viral songs and award-winning art pieces.
The American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers—one of two major US organizations that distributes music royalties to songwriters— hosted lawmakers on Sept. 20 for its annual “We Write the Songs” concert at the Library of Congress. A day later, the organization met with lawmakers to request safeguards that would defend the rights of real-life artists facing competition from algorithms.
“Artificial intelligence has added yet another layer of stress and anxiety and has interrupted a lot of our sleep as creators,” songwriter and ASCAP President Paul Williams told lawmakers at the concert on Wednesday night. “I know you’re all evaluating AI right now because it will touch every aspect of our lives, but I ask that when you do act, you remember to protect creators in all creative industries.”
Songwriters and members of ASCAP met with 25 congressional offices the next day, including House Intellectual Property subcommittee chair Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and the songwriters caucus co-chair Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.). During the meetings, ASCAP members pushed for lawmakers to follow six principles for AI adopted by the organization’s board of directors this summer: prioritizing human creators, consent, compensation, credit, transparency, and global consistency.
The organization believes AI companies should obtain licenses to use musical works for training purposes, ASCAP Executive Vice President Nick Lehman said in an interview.
Neither House office responded to Bloomberg Law’s request for comment.
The lobbying blitz comes as generative AI is triggering legal and economic turbulence in the creative industries. AI companies including
The music industry was alarmed earlier this year when songs using AI-generated vocals of Drake and The Weeknd went viral on social media, prompting a letter from the National Music Publishers Association asking Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to examine how AI models train on musical works. It’s unclear if Schumer responded to the letter, but one of his upcoming AI insight forums is expected to address intellectual property, and various Congressional committees have already held hearings on AI and copyright law.
Results of a survey of ASCAP members shared with Bloomberg Law said half of all music creator respondents believe AI is a threat to their livelihood and seven out of 10 said they want the ability to opt-in or opt-out of having their music used for training AI.
OpenAI announced this week that its most recent version of its text-to-image generator, DALL-E 3, would not create images in the style of a living artist and allows creators to opt their images out of training models.
Artists could potentially stop AI-generated vocal imitators with right of publicity laws, which vary state-by-state and protect one’s name, image or likeness from being exploited. Courts have generally held that copyright law doesn’t protect voice or musical style.
Lehman said ASCAP isn’t “anti-AI or anti-tech,” but wants to prioritize human creators first. “AI can absolutely work to help the industry,” he said. “It can be a convenient tool for innovation both for creativity and also on the back end, from an efficiency point of view.”
The Creative Commons, an open licensing organization, sent a letter to Congress this month arguing that AI tools are “empowering and expressive,” and not all artists are using AI to imitate others.
Lehman said ASCAP wasn’t pushing for any specific pieces of legislation during the meetings, but he noted that there is still ambiguity around whether and AI-assisted artwork can receive copyright protections. While a work created exclusively with AI is uncopyrightable, courts have yet to determine the level of human input needed for protection.
“The question going forward really will be where that line is, and that is not going to be an easy one to draw,” copyright attorney Schuyler Moore of Greenberg Glusker LLP said.
At the Wednesday concert, the songwriter Jimmy Jam, who performs with Terry Lewis, told lawmakers that “as we all talk about AI, I just want to let everyone know that it all comes from humans.”
The duo proceeded to close out the performance with The Human League’s 1986 single, “Human.”