SWOT: Content, Copyright and…. Crime? Is AI a Thief?

A key issue to be keep up with is the legality of how AI is sourcing, citing and using people’s content.
SWOT: Content, Copyright and…. Crime? Is AI a Thief?
Photo by Growtika / Unsplash

Welcome to SWOT by Sound Story, your weekly inside track on the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats looming for the entertainment industry.

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Trending: A prank featuring a member of comedy duo The Inspired Unemployed and three high-profile Australian feminists went awry on Wednesday night, with audience members furious at what they labelled a “fake event” that was “triggering” and “painfully unfunny”. Words by Karl Quinn. Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

🎵 Music: Multiple live music businesses face liquidation, bankruptcy or restructure as the industry's bad week gets worse. Words by Stephen Green. Source: TheMusic.

📰 Media: Ego: The Michael Gudinski Story, the documentary feature film on the late, great Australian music mogul, will hit TV screens next week. Words by Mary Varvaris. Source: TheMusic.

💰 Advertising: Australia, unlike the US and Canada, is seeing a tough advertising linger, stubbornly refusing to pick in the first two months of 2024. Words by Chris Pash. Source: AdNews.

📲 Tech: Facebook has closed down its news tab as its parent company, Meta, follows through with plans to reduce news content available on its services. The news tab was inaccessible for users in Australia as of Tuesday but the company said it would take a number of days to fully shut it down in Australia and the United States. Words by Josh Taylor. Source: The Guardian.

📜 Government: From dance instructors to boilermakers: Labor says non-compete clauses are holding back wages. Words by Paul Karp. Source: The Guardian.  

🌶️ Spicy: Billy McFarland talks Fyre Fest 2: ‘Paying everybody back is the most important thing for me’. Words by Lars Brandle. Source: The Music Network

Strength: The Big Friendly Giants

There’s been a lot of negative news lately about big tech – with everything from AI threats, reactionary tantrums, control and misuse of information, and even their inability to work with each other to the detriment of their consumers and clients, coming under fire. 

So it was heartening to see a slightly more positive news story emerge this week. 

👉 Universal Music Group (UMG) and Spotify have expanded their partnership, which will see them offer “deeper social media experiences”.

👉 As reported on Music Ally, the two companies have just announced “an expansion of their strategic relationship” which will see UMG artists getting the first crack at some new promotional features on Spotify.

👉 “To start, UMG artists will have the ability to share teasers of upcoming music on Spotify to increase fan engagement and pre-save activity before a new release,” the announcement revealed.

👉 Spotify and UMG said they will “continue to explore additional features that allow fans to discover artists and propel virality of new releases”.

👉 This week also saw Spotify’s new royalty model come into play.

👉 The increased collaboration between Spotify and UMG comes off the back of increasing tensions, and reduced collaboration, between UMG and TikTok.

Weakness: (Media) Men Behaving Badly

The media, and some men within it, has done itself no favours this week as allegations about chequebook journalism, dodgy deals and “doing anything to get the story” (and not in a good way) continue to pour out of the legal proceedings brought by former political staffer Bruce Lehrmann against Channel 10 and Lisa Wilkinson. Now, instead of concluding, the defamation case is hearing additional evidence and allegations from former Channel 7 producer Taylor Auerbach about everything from cocaine and sex workers, to alleged bullying and antisemitism

It’s genuinely hard to keep up, but with headline after headline, how much damage is being done to the public's trust in mainstream media by these revelations and allegations?

📌 Zanda: As much as this whole ordeal, and other various sub-ordeals, are an indictment on the state of mainstream media, they’re unlikely to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back when it comes to trust and perception in the eyes of the public. It’s another pub topic, another thing for people to ‘tut tut’ about, but sadly, a topic that other media outlets have jumped on because it gets clicks, diverting resources as real public interest journalism in an industry running on the smell of an oily rag continues to wane. Ultimately the majority of people have already either made their minds up that the media is untrustworthy, or they’ve found one outlet that echoes their point of view, as the industry becomes increasingly polarised and politicised.

📌 Vivienne: It’s quite galling and bizarre to think Channel 7’s Spotlight interview with Bruce Lehrmann was, at one point, nominated for the Walkley Award for Scoop of the Year. This was eventually rescinded when it emerged Channel 7 had financially incentivised Bruce to participate in the program. Chequebook journalism was just the beginning though, and now we’re caught in a never-ending barrage of details about men (allegedly) behaving badly. The public’s deep distrust of the media is hugely problematic at a time when information is being manipulated, misused, mismanaged and mangled – but they’re not doing much to inspire confidence if even half of these allegations are true.

Opportunity: Keeping Up With Gen Z

Last Wednesday, at Mumbrella CommsCon, Poem’s Rob Lowe (not the actor) offered his insights into how Gen Z is shaping culture, and what brands need to do to adapt, acclimatise and accelerate towards this phenomenon.  

👉 Despite the rise of AI and tech-driven content, Rob said brands actually need to become “more human” and that earned content will increasingly outperform advertising.

👉 This humanity in content also needs to have a purpose.

👉 Or, as Rob said: “Brands now need to consider not only what they’re going to say, but why people are going to care, and how this is going to be relevant to what’s happening in culture.”

👉 And: “We have to create content in the same way consumers do and that means letting go of some control, creating on the fly, always evolving and removing a layer of polish. The numbers show that this is the future of how to drive effective attention.”

👉 Ultimately, what’s happening right now is multi-faceted, multi-dimensional and has multiple implications.

👉 “It’s a power shift, a cultural shift, an industry shift. It happens at the point when the new generation starts to own the cultural narrative and what was once niche becomes a mainstream influence. Gen Z culture is driving what’s being shared, what’s being talked about, and how it’s being talked about. They’re influencing media headlines and completely shaping how the media works.”

👉 You can read Rob’s summary of his presentation on Mumbrella.

Keeping up with developments in AI is a full-time job. Indeed, The White House has issued an order that every Government agency appoint a Chief AI Officer with “significant expertise in AI”.  A key issue you should definitely be keeping up with though, is the legality of how AI is sourcing, citing and using people’s content. 

👉 The New York Times, for example, launched a lawsuit late last year against OpenAI and Microsoft over copyright infringement.

👉 The lawsuit “contends that millions of articles published by The Times were used to train automated chatbots that now compete with the news outlet as a source of reliable information”.

👉 This piece by Ricky Sutton is a fascinating read.

👉 In the piece, he goes back and forth with Google’s Gemini, asking it to justify itself, and seemingly backing it into a corner where it admits its own over-reliance on, and questionable usage of, publishers’ content.

👉 The entire back-and-forth is worth reading, but the part where a Google-devised and managed product suggests direct negotiation with Google, but then refuses to provide any tangible contact details because “reaching specific departments within large organisations is often not straightforward and can change over time” is particularly insightful into what information AI is willing to take, and which information it’s unwilling to give.

👉 Ricky’s certainly not the only one who’s exploring this issue.

👉 Suno is an AI music company looking to generate US$120 billion per year, but questions are already being asked about whether it's been trained on copyrighted recordings.

👉 In this op-ed on Music Business Worldwide, Ed Newton-Rex, CEO of the ethical generative AI non-profit Fairly Trained, argues that “without licensing, AI companies are unfairly exploiting creators’ work to build competitors to those creators”.

👉 Concerns about AI also go well beyond entertainment, and all the way to the top. According to Axios, the U.S. House has banned Congressional staffers from using Microsoft Copilot. It will also "be removed from and blocked on all House Windows devices".

👉 Why? "The Microsoft Copilot application has been deemed by the Office of Cybersecurity to be a risk to users due to the threat of leaking House data to non-House approved cloud services," the guidance from the House's Chief Administrative Officer, Catherine Szpindor, said.

The Fun Stuff

Quote of the Week: “Bluesfest will be 125 million per-cent back in 2025. We’re still calculating the numbers, but we know the attendance for Bluesfest this year was at least the same as in 2023. We have held our position, and as much as we would like to see more people come it’s not going to happen until the interest rates drop. We do ask our government to support our industry until then,” Bluesfest Founder, Peter Noble, on whether the long-running festival will survive after a slew of festivals ran into trouble in early 2024. (Via Music Feeds).

🎶 Song of the Week: Celebrating the vibrant pulse of Melbourne’s music scene, 20-year-old singer-songwriter and busker ISHAN has unveiled his electrifying new single, ‘My Mouth (la la la)’. Listen on Spotify. Read more about ISHAN on AAA Backstage.

Team Tidbit: It’s been a busy few weeks for Team Sound Story. Last Tuesday, we were helping The Brag Media pull off the biggest Rolling Stone Australia Awards ever. The following night, it was off to the CommsCon Awards, where Sound Story took home Highly Commended in the Best New-Comer of the Year category.

Written by
Sound Story
Sound Story is Australia’s leading strategic communications consultancy for the creative industries with clients spanning music, media, advertising and technology.
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