K-Pop Conference Finds AI Usage in Music Outpacing Copyright Law

Artificial Intelligence dominated the conversation at the inaugural Moving the World with Music conference in Seoul. But K-Pop executives said that copyright law is lagging far behind technologies such as ChatGPT and Midjourney.

Supertone, a Korean startup that has financial backing from BTS promoter Hybe Corp., used its platform at MWM to demonstrate voice technology and reduce barriers in music production. “Our ultimate goal is to create a link between creators and technology, making what creators thought was impossible into reality,” said Lee Kyogu, Supertone’s CEO and co-founder.

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Pozalabs, backed by CJ ENM, was established in 2018 after CEO Huh Wongil saw growing demand for affordable background music to be used in video content creation. Current music copyright clearance complexities are an obstacle to the (legal) use of previously recorded music and could not keep up with the Korean industry’s “ppalli ppalli” (everything fast) work routine. “Typically, it takes about two weeks to create music, but it takes about 5 minutes for our system. That means we can make 50-60 tracks, while others can only do five,” said Huh.

But the recent controversy surrounding viral track “Heart on My Sleeve” by doppelgangers of Drake and The Weeknd was cited in multiple panel discussions, on Thursday. The conference, organized by the Korea Music Content Association, brought together music business and tech industry executives, government officials and members of the Korean parliament.

“More needs to be done to ensure Koreans can operate on a level playing field. For instance, Korean artists still can’t fully benefit from the public performance rights, which is an important part of the industry revenue. Nor are they able to effectively prevent Korean consumers from accessing foreign streaming sites,” said Lauri Rechardt, chief legal officer at the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.

Korea is now the seventh largest music market in the world, according to the latest IFPI Global Music Report. It grew by more than 14% in 2022, significantly higher than the global average of 9.0%.

But the country’s copyright laws currently only cover humans and business entities, not virtual humans nor AI-generated content. And Korean courts have still not delivered their verdict on a patent application for Device for the Autonomous Bootstrapping of Unified Sentience (DABUS), an artificial intelligence system created by American scientist Stephen Thaler. DABUS’s patent applications have previously been rejected in countries including the U.S., UK, Australia and parts of Europe.

“As AI advances, we need to come up with synchronized international laws, so K-pop can spread throughout the whole world and IP can be protected,” said Kim Shi Hyeong, director general of the Korean Intellectual Property Office.

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