Is AI-generated Art, still Art?

The advancement of artificial intelligence (AI) is raising all kinds of new dilemmas and questions in our world. For example, the release of a new track called “Heart on my Sleeve.” AI-generated, it featured the voices of Drake and The Weeknd. Yet, neither of them created it. One of their labels pulled the track immediately. However, hundreds of thousands of people already viewed it.

This brings to mind a few questions. Who has rights to that type of content? Does an artist own his/her voice? And, is it still art? These are important questions to consider when AI can easily replicate one’s voice. Although arguably more relevant for a performer, who makes a living from his/her voice, it’s also important for other types of people. For example, I recently listened to A Promised Land, written and narrated by Barack Obama. It was neat to hear the book read by the author. Currently, I’m listening to Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz. This book, however, sounds as though a robot read it. Initially it made the audio difficult to listen to without the intonation, inflection, and emphasis we would get from a human reading.

Then I had a thought that AI could probably replicate Obama’s voice to read any of his other novels. Somebody listening likely wouldn’t be able to tell if Obama the human was reading it, or if it was an AI-generated imitation based on analysis of his other readings and public speeches. In instances like that, would Obama be entitled to royalties, or some form of compensation, for allowing others to replicate the likeness of his voice? And what if it was used to narrate works that weren’t his own?

I must admit, I feel a bit daunted how to manage something like this. How could an artist/performer be able to track and monitor the likeness of their voice across all types of media? How could they trademark the unique characteristics of their voice? Even answering the management and financial aspects doesn’t resolve the fundamental question about whether or not it’s art. Can we say that AI-generated art is still art? How does this change if a human is directing the AI creation or if the AI is generating it all on its own.

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