Drake diss track fuels a legal standoff over AI use

On Behalf of | May 9, 2024 | Intellectual Property

The late Tupac Shakur’s estate threatened legal action against Drake for his latest diss track, “Taylor Made Freestyle,” which features AI-generated Tupac and Snoop Dogg mimicking voices used without the artists’ permission. This dispute is shaking the music industry by raising questions about the rights to an artist’s voice and legacy.

A cease and desist letter from Shakur’s estate’s lawyer, Howard King, to Drake is clear: take the track down within 24 hours or face the legal consequences. It was also shock and disappointment over the unauthorized use of Shakur’s voice and the subject matter Drake used it for:

“The unauthorized, equally dismaying use of Tupac’s voice against Kendrick Lamar, a good friend to the Estate who has given nothing but respect to Tupac and his legacy publicly and privately, compounds the insult,” King wrote.

While Snoop Dogg’s voice also appeared on the controversial track, it’s not clear if he’ll take similar legal steps. A recent news story shows him reacting to news of the song’s existence.

A broader legal reckoning over AI voices is coming

The AI dispute isn’t just about one Drake song—it’s about the bigger picture of voice cloning in the music industry. As AI technology becomes more sophisticated, legal experts and lawmakers are trying to figure out how to protect artists’ rights. The estate demands that Drake explain how he created the AI Tupac voice and prove that he didn’t infringe upon copyrighted material in creating the song.

More than a passing controversy—this dispute is a watershed moment amid a broader legal crisis that could shape the future of music and artists’ control over their voices. The Shakur estate’s decisive response to the unauthorized use of Tupac’s likeness signals a new era of legal challenges and ethical questions for the entertainment industry.

The ethical quandary of AI in music

Artists and their estates are now grappling with the reality that AI technology can replicate voices with startling accuracy. This raises a host of ethical concerns about consent, artistic integrity, and the preservation of an artist’s brand posthumously.

California’s take on the right to publicity

According to the cease-and-desist letter, California law is unambiguous about such uses of an artist’s voice. The estate contends that the harm done by “Taylor Made Freestyle” isn’t just financial but also reputational, potentially damaging the respect and admiration that Tupac’s legacy continues to command.

Uncharted legal territory

The intricacies of copyright law are tested as the Shakur estate claims that the AI model also asserts that Drake’s production team may have trained AI to mimic Tupac’s voice by using copyrighted material in a process called “scraping.” If proven, the allegation could have significant legal repercussions for AI developers and users using voice mimicking since several writers, artists and media organizations are taking legal action for developers using copyrighted content without permission to train AI.