Taylor Swift's AI photos are prompting major changes at TikTok and maybe even US law

Taylor label Universal Music Group is pulling all music from TikTok
January 31, 2024 12:09 p.m. EST
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We all know Taylor Swift has a lot of sway in music and pop culture, but it turns out she might also be prompting some major changes to US legislation and even a major overhaul of business agreements between Universal Music Group and TikTok.

Today, the licensing agreement between UMG and TikTok expired, and the label, which represents artists like Taylor Swift and Drake, said it would cease all future licensing possibilities to the video-sharing platform because it accuses the platform of bullying, intimidation, and neglecting to pay “fair value for the music.”

CNBC is reporting that UMG tried to negotiate “appropriate compensation for our artists and songwriters, protecting human artists from the harmful effects of AI, and online safety for TikTok’s users,” how the talks with the Chinese tech giant fell through by the expiration of their licensing agreement. 

According to UMG, which is the largest music label in the world, the heart of the issue has to do with AI, accusing TikTok of  allowing its platform to be “flooded with AI-generated recordings,” in addition to the tools it developed that “enable, promote and encourage AI music creation.” They say TikTok is “demanding a contractual right which would allow this content to massively dilute the royalty pool for human artists, in a move that is nothing short of sponsoring artist replacement by AI.”

TikTok shot back, saying the label is motivated purely by greed.

However, this issue of AI is also at the heart of the matter of possible new US legislation that also involves Taylor Swift. The Guardian is reporting that after the platform X (formerly Twitter) was flooded with AI-generated videos and images, known as “deepfakes,” of Taylor Swift, where the “Anti-Hero” songstress was depicted in sexually explicit scenarios and pornographic imagery, US senators from both sides of the political spectrum have pushed a bill to ban deepfakes of this nature.

The bill, which was introduced on Tuesday with the support of Amy Klobuchar, Josh Hawley, and Lindsey Graham, is known as the Disrupt Explicit Forged Images and Non-Consensual Edits Act of 2024, or the “Defiance Act.” If passed, it would criminalize the spread of nonconsensual, sexualized AI images, and victims could seek civil penalties against “individuals who produced or possessed the forgery with intent to distribute it.” 

Senate majority whip Dick Durbin said of the bill, “This month, fake, sexually-explicit images of Taylor Swift that were generated by artificial intelligence swept across social media platforms. Although the imagery may be fake, the harm to the victims from the distribution of sexually explicit ‘deepfakes’ is very real.”

Senator Hawley added, “Nobody – neither celebrities nor ordinary Americans – should ever have to find themselves featured in AI pornography. Innocent people have a right to defend their reputations and hold perpetrators accountable in court. This bill will make that a reality.”

Taylor Swift may be, as Wendy Williams might say, an icon, a legend, and she is the moment, but she’s also making major waves when it comes to curbing AI, and we stan a Queen.

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