A YouTuber called Ghostwriter has used AI software trained on the voices of rappers Drake and The Weeknd to produce a track called Heart On My Sleeve that sounds like a work of the two artists - and it's going viral.
The track's video, which has already racked up hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube, features two voices trading verses that sound uncannily like the rappers'. The sound quality of the YouTube track is not quite as polished as a genuine track, but it could very easily dupe unknowing listeners if heard out of context. Ghostwriter appears to have produced other 'fake' songs, including 'Kanye West' covering Drake's hit Passion Fruit. 'Kanye's' AI vocals on this track seem lower quality than those on Heart On My Sleeve - the slurred, autotuned voice on this earlier effort perhaps providing an insight into earlier iterations of cloned-voice tracks.
Having listened to Heart On My Sleeve a number of times while looking into this story, it is undeniably catchy. So where does this hit leave the artists linked to its creation - Drake and The Weeknd on one side, and Ghostwriter and their AI software on the other?
It is interesting the BBC have asserted in their commentary that "Heart On My Sleeve, for example, does not infringe copyright, as it appears to be an entirely original composition". However this stance completely glosses over the thorny question we are grappling with across the arts right now of whether training AI software on original works (as it appears Ghostwriter must have done) may count as copyright infringement. In January 2023 Getty Images filed a claim in the High Court of Justice that Stability AI infringed their intellectual property rights, including copyright in content owned or represented by Getty Images, by processing vast quantities of images and their metadeta during their training of Stable Diffusion. Those in the creative industry want the businesses behind AI generators to pay for use of the original creative works that their AI has learnt from and built upon, and we are starting to see this position being tested in the Courts.
The BBC also claim that "[Ghostwriter] has also made it explicit that Drake and The Weeknd were not involved in the making of the song, which should (in theory) protect them from a "passing off" claim, where they profit from misleading the audience into believing it is genuine".
But is it "explicit" that the human artists were not involved? On YouTube the song is simply called "ghostwriter - heart on my sleeve (Drake AI Song feat. The Weeknd) with no explanatory notes about the song's creation in the video's description. Additionally, there is no mention of AI or Ghostwriter on the track itself.
The questions around copyright ownership and infringement in respect of AI content such as this track are much more complex than the BBC suggest, and creators should be very careful when taking inspiration from original works in the production of their content.
As AI becomes increasingly powerful and accessible, we are only going to face more of these copyright questions.