Biden-Harris Order Shows Promise of Protecting Songwriters From AI Threats

By L.A. Stevens

After years of work, the SGA - along with outside counsel Charles Sanders and the ACG Advocacy group - are seeing progress in their attempts to protect songwriting as a career in the age of artificial intelligence.

"The SGA and its allies are very grateful to the Biden-Harris administration for their work in addressing the dangers inherent in AI technology - especially for creatives," said Rick Carnes.

Like many in creative roles, songwriters stand to lose earnings to AI creations while AI, itself, uses creators' songs to train itself. Unlike other creatives, though, songwriting as a career has already been hit by technological advancements that grew faster than laws could catch up with them.

Major music piracy nearly wiped out the music business beginning in the 90s (read: Napster and other massive, illegal downloading services). Streaming services then dealt a double-tap to songwriters by paying less than promised (if at all), while copyright rates floundered and failed to keep up with the cost of living. Should AI technology be allowed to supplant songwriters, it could mean the end of songwriting as a career path.

However, some good news came on Monday, October 30, when the Biden-Harris Administration issued an Exective Order to establish "Safe, Secure and Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence" standards for the U.S. Though the Order is wide-sweeping, it does speak to intellectual property rights and copyright protections that are so inherent to songwriters and their efforts to make a living from their craft. You can view the text of the Executive Order here. But, if you want the abbreviated version, here are some excerpts from the Order that apply to songwriters:

"This effort requires [] ...tackling novel intellectual property (IP) questions and other problems to protect inventors and creators."

And another: "In the workplace itself, AI should not be deployed in ways that undermine rights, worsen job quality, encourage undue worker surveillance, lessen market competition, introduce new health and safety risks, or cause harmful labor-force disruptions."

Definitions in the Executive Order also show a willingness to identify, for example, songs created by a songwriter and those created by AI. The Order cites: "The term “synthetic content” means information, such as images, videos, audio clips, and text, that has been significantly modified or generated by algorithms, including by AI." The Order goes on to define: "The term “watermarking” means the act of embedding information, which is typically difficult to remove, into outputs created by AI — including into outputs such as photos, videos, audio clips, or text — for the purposes of verifying the authenticity of the output or the identity or characteristics of its provenance, modifications, or conveyance."

Finally, The Order addresses specific issues of importance to songwriters including:

-requiring the United States Copyright Office of the Library of Congress to publish its forthcoming AI study that will address copyright issues raised by AI including the scope of protection for works produced using AI and the treatment of copyrighted works in AI training; and

-requiring the Director of the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, [] in consultation with the Attorney General, to develop a training, analysis and evaluation program to mitigate AI-related IP risks. These programs should include appropriate personnel dedicated to collecting and analyzing reports of AI-related IP theft, investigating such incidents with implications for national security, and, where appropriate and consistent with applicable law, pursuing related enforcement actions...

This brings hope to creatives that their own work is at least being considered in this Order. To further identify potential dangers to creatives the Order dictates that:

"...the Secretary of Commerce must...solicit input from the private sector, academia, civil society, and other stakeholders through a public consultation process on potential risks, benefits, other implications..."

Toward that end, SGA President Rick Carnes continues to speak out and to address the threats posed to songwriters by this burgeoning technology.

"As we've done for nearly 100 years, the SGA and its allies continue to fight to protect songwriters and their original creations -- creations that act as the soundtrack of our lives. We can't emphasize strongly enough that its the human heart and soul that give these creations meaning and speak to others like us. No algorithm should profit from our blood, sweat and tears."

Follow ups will be posted as they happen.