AI

How the CEO of the Grammy Awards is pushing for deepfake regulation

Recording Academy head Harvey Mason Jr. spoke with Tech Brew.
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Anna Kim

· 3 min read

“Am I battling ghost or AI?” Kendrick Lamar asks at one point in “Euphoria,” part of his recent blistering rap beef with Drake.

The rapper was responding to a previous diss track in which Drake used voice cloning to imitate the late Tupac Shakur, a snippet of which Senator Thom Tillis broadcast during a congressional hearing on the misuse of this kind of technology in April.

The track is an example of just how quickly AI mimicry—both as a sanctioned tool and a deceptive tactic—has become pervasive in the music industry. Lamar has previously tapped deepfakes for a music video, for instance, and a copy of Drake’s voice was used in an AI-generated song that went viral last year.

The issue is not just relegated to music, of course. A recent dustup involving Scarlett Johansson and an OpenAI chatbot persona that bore a suspicious resemblance to the actress’s voice highlighted just how thorny questions of ownership over a likeness can get.

Songwriter and producer Harvey Mason Jr. spoke with Tech Brew about how he’s navigating this tricky terrain as the CEO of the Recording Academy. Last year, an update to the Grammy rule book stated that only human creators would be eligible for a Grammy Award in 2024. Mason is also rallying musicians to support state and federal legislation that aims to better protect artists from unauthorized AI re-creations of their likeness or voice, including a bipartisan Senate proposal co-sponsored by Tillis and a corresponding effort in the House.

“I hope that [legislation] can play a big part in finding a solution or making sure there are protections in place around AI and creators,” Mason said. “I’m optimistic, but I’m also realistic in the sense that this technology is moving really, really quickly. And our lawmakers would have to understand it, absorb it, and really thoughtfully develop and devise a plan. And sometimes that might take a little bit longer than we all have.”

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Equalizing levels: While protecting artists is the priority, Mason said he also hopes regulation will strike a balance between limiting generative AI and allowing for its legitimate use as a tool in recording.

“Right now, we’re hearing our community say they want protections, they want equitable financial compensation, and they want approvals,” Mason said.

“There’s a lot of fear and uneasiness, but there’s also a lot of excitement,” he added. “Our position and the academy’s position is just one of fairness, equity, making sure we’re protecting people who are creating music.”

The new synthesizer: Mason is also taking cues from how the industry has adapted to past technologies that threatened to upend music production, from the synthesizer to digital recording and Pro Tools.

“My hope is that we can do the same thing with AI [as with streaming] and figure out the technology, how it can be used to amplify the excellence happening in creative songwriting, singing, and track production,” Mason said. “And also figure out how to make sure we’re able to fairly and equitably monetize it, and make sure that the crediting system and situation is sorted in a way that people, consumers, listeners know when they’re listening to AI or when they’re listening to human singing.”

Mason said a visit to Washington left him hopeful that there’s broad support among lawmakers for protections here.

“I didn’t face too much opposition. It seemed like everybody was wanting to make sure that we’re protecting human creativity,” Mason said. “It’s just about ‘How do we define it? And how does it come down in the form of legislation?’”

Keep up with the innovative tech transforming business

Tech Brew keeps business leaders up-to-date on the latest innovations, automation advances, policy shifts, and more, so they can make informed decisions about tech.