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AI and deepfake vocals: whose voice was that?

5 Apr 2023

| Author: Steven Moe

Much of the discussion about AI has focussed on ChatGPT and in a recent LawNews article I explained how ChatGPT works, with examples of how it could be used here.

But other innovations are showing what AI maybe used for and what could become normalised in the future. These new technologies could disrupt how things are being produced. What does it signal for areas like identity, copyright and art where new technologies allow new ways of creating things? Let’s consider an example involving music and “guest vocalists”.

A famous DJ recently used AI technology to create a new song. David Guetta asked AI for some lyrics in the style of Eminem on a specific topic, then used a voice synthesiser that simulated Eminem’s voice to create a lyric. The song sounds as if it’s a collaboration with Eminem (a link to the video of it is here).

Guetta had this to say about his process, perhaps being positive and upfront to avoid Eminem becoming upset or pursuing a claim of some kind: “Eminem, bro! This is something I made as a joke and it worked so good, I could not believe it … I discovered those websites about AI – basically, you can write lyrics in the style of any artist you like. So I typed ‘write a verse in the style of Eminem about future rave.’ And I went to another AI website that can recreate the voice. I put the text in that and I played the record and people went nuts.”

This raises interesting points because as the technology improves, creators might be able to take samples from famous people and singers, manipulate them and have “guest vocals” that are not in fact the person we might think they are. While this could lead to some interesting collaborations, it also raises some ethical points about identity and manipulation using technology. Are we okay if a long-dead superstar’s voice is used to simulate a new single or a duet with another person who is long gone?

As the creator of a podcast with 340 episodes that each go for an hour, I know my own vocals are “out there” in a very easy-to-access way. Using this sort of technology, it will probably become easier than before to create a fake version of an interview that seems real.

And as the technology improves, how would you feel if you left a short voice message somewhere and it was then used to simulate your voice? AI raises interesting questions which get at the core of art, identity, creativity and what the limits are – or what they should be. ■

Steven Moe is a partner at Parry Field Lawyers ■

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