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Stability AI audio lead quits over copyright stance

Stability AI copyright
Image credit: rafapress / Shutterstock

The head of the audio team at Stability AI has resigned over the company’s stance on training generative models on copyrighted works.

Stability has become one of the UK’s biggest players in the generative AI space. Founded in 2019, the firm – which develops generative AI tools in competition with ChatGPT creator OpenAI – has raised more than £120m and has been valued at $1bn.

The company’s work in AI music generation has, however, taken a hit as the VP of audio, Ed Newton-Rex, claimed the company’s position on “fair use” has forced him to leave.

“I don’t agree with the company’s opinion that training generative AI models on copyrighted works is ‘fair use’,” Newton-Rex wrote on X.

Newton-Rex worked on Stability AI’s music generation project and said that he was proud of the work the team did to train models on licensed music with revenue shares going to rights-holders.

Stability AI has now publicly stated that “AI development is an acceptable, transformative and socially beneficial use of existing content that is protected by fair use”.

The comments from Stability AI were part of a response to the US Copyright Office, which recently invited AI firms to share their opinions on the fair use of existing works for generative models.

In its response to the US government, Stability argued that generative AI training’s use of copyrighted material already fell under existing fair use law as it “furthers the objectives of copyright law, including to promote the progress of science and useful arts”.

Stability essentially argued that it, and other AI companies, should be legally allowed to train generative AI models on copyrighted data for the sake of creating new content.

“This is a position that is fairly standard across many of the large generative AI companies, and other big tech companies building these models — it’s far from a view that is unique to Stability. But it’s a position I disagree with,” Newton-Rex wrote.

The former Stability employee argued that music generated using copyrighted material, by the US government’s own definition, hurts the potential market value for said work by competing with the original source material.

Newton-Rex said that fair use laws were not “designed with generative AI in mind” and that companies “worth billions” are training models “without permission” from artists and creators.

A spokesperson for Stability AI told UKTN: “We thank Ed for his contribution to Stability AI and wish him all the best in his future endeavours.”

Intellectual property (IP) protection and fair use has become one of the largest debates surrounding the advancement of generative AI.

Earlier this year, parliament proposed removing legal protection of copyright work when using it to train AI models. The now-scrapped proposal spurred a debate in parliament in which Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for the Treasury Sarah Olney said it represented a concerning trend of “AI only thinking about the interests of AI”.

IP rules for AI were one of several concerns raised at the recent AI Safety Summit held by the UK government at the beginning of November.