Head of Audio at Stability AI quits because it’s “exploitative” for developers to use creative work without consent

The company behind image generator Stable Diffusion recently announced its foray into music with the launch of Stable Audio, a new AI-powered text-to-music audio generator.

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Ed Newton-Rex

Image: ed.newtonrex

Ed Newton-Rex, the Head of Audio at Stability AI, has resigned due to a disagreement with the tech firm over what constitutes “fair use” of copyrighted works.

In a new statement, Newton-Rex notes that he doesn’t agree “with the company’s opinion that training generative AI models on copyrighted works.”

The former executive told the BBC that he thought it was “exploitative” for developers to use creative work without consent – a stance he says many AI firms, including Stability AI, would beg to differ.

“I wasn’t able to change the prevailing opinion on fair use at the company,” says Newton-Rex.

He refers to a statement issued by Stability when the US Copyright Office recently invited public comments on generative AI and copyright, which says: We believe that AI development is an acceptable, transformative, and socially-beneficial use of existing content that is protected by fair use.”

For context, the term ‘fair use’ implies that training an AI model on copyrighted works doesn’t infringe the copyright in those works, which means no permission is needed and no payment will be made.

“This is a position that is fairly standard across many of the large generative AI companies, and other big tech companies building these models  –  it’s far from a view that is unique to Stability. But it’s a position I disagree with,” says Ed, who’s a classical composer himself.

Newton-Rex told BBC that he “wouldn’t jump” at the chance to offer his own music to AI developers for free.

“I wouldn’t think ‘Yes, I’ll definitely give my compositions to a system like this’. I don’t think I’d consent,” he said, adding that many creators produce their works “often for literally no money, in the hope that one day that copyright will be worth something.”

“To be clear, I’m a supporter of generative AI. It will have many benefits  –  that’s why I’ve worked on it for 13 years. But I can only support generative AI that doesn’t exploit creators by training models  –  which may replace them –  on their work without permission.”

Read Newton-Rex’s statement in full below.


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