As publishers and other creators seek payments for the value chatbots extract from them, one Los Angeles startup points the way for artists getting paid
The issue of AI scraping copyrighted works to train language models is heating up, with Dow Jones and CNN starting to talk about charging companies like OpenAI when their chatbots lap up their work. Is this infringement, with the resulting AI a derivative work that requires licensing? Or is it instead a fair use that requires no payment, because arguably the copying is “de minimis” and the AI generates something transformational (which is the relevant copyright test)?
Either way, artists, creators and publishers justifiably feel threatened from both an economic and a moral standpoint. The economic threat is clear: Their creative livelihoods are in the crosshairs.
But they also worry that AI will cheapen the whole business. Grammy and Golden Globe-winning musician and composer Alex Ebert, who doubles as lead of indie band Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, puts it this way: AI film scoring directly threatens his craft. And it is a “democratization that leads to homogenization.”
So what can we do about it?
Well, here’s a start. L.A.-based Lore Machine, from the mind of founder Thobey Campion who previously served as head of publishing at Vice Media, is a generative AI company that converts textual IP into a library of multimedia assets that it calls “generative storyscapes.” The closest analogy is graphic novels, though Campion hates that comparison.
The relevant text-based ingredient is the treasure trove of scripts, lyrics and novels that, in Campion’s words, are “collecting dust inside the film studios, record labels and publishing houses of the world.” Lore Machine’s AI identifies plot points in those forgotten works and generates accompanying visuals to create something entirely new. Its AI also adds narration, animation, sound design and other interactive elements.
Campion told me to think of it “like a set of Legos” that can be assembled in myriad rich media formats, some which we may not even have conceived of yet. All of this, in Campion’s view, leads to a great “unlock” of new value to creators.
“We say, ‘Let’s start with formal partnerships with studios, labels, publishing houses, and use AI tools to create generative formats,’” Campion said. All of Lore Machine’s visuals are derived from training its AI on the works of visual artists who opt in to become partners — partners who seek to get their work out there and monetized.
In this regard, Lore Machine’s vision is analogous to other content marketplaces, seeking out new opportunities for artists confronted by tech-impacted livelihood realities. Airbit, which music creation app BandLab recently acquired, offers a catalog of over one million beats from music artists and creators around the world. Airbit says it now boasts over 800,000 users who have purchased more than two million beats and can integrate those beats into their own original creative works. Beatmakers find new audiences and new creative reach that they can monetize. And Airbit users can now access a vast source of beats that have been fully cleared of legal licensing complexity for an affordable price.
Another important aspect of Lore Machine’s opt-in approach to training its AI is the control it gives to the ultimate AI outputs. Lore Machine selects the artists and partners with which it works, a key difference from the Wild West of generative AI data sets today. The critical importance of this type of quality control can’t be understated. The lack of basic safeguards came to light last week in a very big way when Microsoft’s new darling Bing expressed its undying love to New York Times reporter Kevin Roose in a very dark and disturbing way. Forget AI guardrails: Bing went completely off the rails!
Unlike many others now looking to capitalize on AI, Campion is deeply thoughtful about it all and isn’t just out to make a quick buck. And apart from the “great unlock” of value in now-dormant works, he is genuinely excited about the new breed of artists who use AI to “create amazing new art that we can never imagine.”
I asked him, though, about Ebert’s concern that a flood of AI works will inundate and devalue human art. “I happen to believe that the only good shit will be done by human artists,” Campion told me earnestly. “Everything else will fall into this morass of mediocrity.”
For his part, Ebert conceded the possibility that AI will drive us to bold new artistic frontiers that we can’t even fathom. But he bemoaned what he called society’s “death-drive compulsion toward the singularity.” Yes, there may be some good outcomes.
“Or,” he said, “we all turn into bots.”
For those of you interested in learning more, visit Peter’s firm Creative Media at creativemedia.biz and follow him on Twitter: @pcsathy.
Peter Csathy is a WrapPRO contributor writing about the intersection between tech and entertainment/media. He's chairman of Creative Media (https://creativemedia.biz/), a boutique media, entertainment and tech business advisory and legal services firm. His monthly “Fearless Media” newsletter (https://fearlessmedia.substack.com/) covers the future of entertainment, media and tech; and his weekly “AI & NFT Legal Update” newsletter (https://ainftlegalupdate.substack.com/) covers the AI and Web3/NFT ecosystems. You can also listen to his “Fearless Media” podcast (https://fearlessmediapodcast.buzzsprout.com/) and follow him on Twitter @pcsathy.