AI chief drops ‘exploitative’ copyright dispute

  • By Zoe Kleinman
  • technology editor

image Caption,

Ed Newton Rex has worked in AI and music for 13 years

A senior executive at tech firm Stability AI has resigned over the company’s view that it is acceptable to use copyrighted work without permission to train its products.

Ed Newton-Rex was head of audio at the firm, which is based in the UK and US.

He told the BBC that he believes it is “exploitative” for any AI developer to use a creative work without consent.

But many large AI firms, including Stability AI, argue that taking copyrighted material is “fair use.”

The “fair use” exemption in copyright rules means that permission from the owners of the original content is not required.

The US Copyright Office is currently conducting a study regarding generic AI and policy issues.

Mr Newton-Rex stressed that he was talking about all AI firms that share this idea – and most of them do.

Responding to his former staff member in a post on Twitter, Stability AI founder Imad Mostaq said the firm believes fair use “supports creative growth.”

AI tools are trained using large amounts of data, much of which is often taken, or “scraped”, from the Internet without consent.

Generative AI – products that are used to create content such as images, audio, video and music – can then produce similar content when requested or directly replicate an individual artist’s style.

Mr Newton-Rex, who is also a choral musician, said he “wouldn’t jump” at the opportunity to offer his music to AI developers for free.

He said, “I wouldn’t think ‘Yes, I would definitely give my creations to such a system’. I don’t think I would consent.”

He said that many people “often create content for virtually no money, in the hope that one day that copyright will have some value.”

But, ultimately, their work was being used without consent to create their own competitors and even potentially replace them entirely, he said.

He created an AI audio creator called Stability Audio for his former employer, but said he chose to license the data that was used for training and share the revenue from it with rights holders. I accept that this model will not work for everyone.

“I don’t think there’s a silver bullet,” he said.

“I know many people on the rights holder side who are excited about the potential agenda today and want to work with it, but they want to do it under the right conditions.”

He said he is optimistic about the benefits of AI and does not plan to leave the industry.

“I think morally, ethically, globally, I hope we would all take the approach of saying, ‘You have to get permission to do this from the people who wrote it, otherwise, it’s not OK, ‘” They said.

The use of copyrighted material to train AI tools is controversial.

A track featuring AI-generated voices of music artists Drake and The Weeknd was removed from Spotify earlier this year after it was revealed that it was created without their consent.

Some news organizations, including the BBC and The Guardian, have blocked AI companies from lifting their content from the internet.

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