Roc Nation Files Takedown Notices to Remove Jay-Z Deepfake Videos From YouTube

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Jay-Z’s company Roc Nation have filed takedown notices against “deepfake” videos that use artificial intelligence to make him rap Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start the Fire and Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” soliloquy.

The anonymous creator of the YouTube-hosted videos, known as Vocal Synthesis, has said that copyright notices were filed by Roc Nation, stating: “This content unlawfully uses an AI to impersonate our client’s voice.” The two aforementioned videos have been removed, though others remain, including one of the rapper taking on the Book of Genesis.

Vocal Synthesis said – via a deepfake video using the ersatz voices of Barack Obama and Donald Trump – that they had “no malicious purpose” and were “disappointed that Jay-Z and Roc Nation have decided to bully a small YouTuber in this way”.

Deepfake videos have already caused great controversy in political and celebrity circles, with California outlawing them in 2018, and Facebook banning them in January. The technology has most notoriously been used to create fake pornographic videos featuring famous actors – the PornHub website banned deepfakes in 2018.

Deepfakes differ from so-called “cheapfakes”, which don’t involve AI and instead feature re-edited footage with the aim of distorting the truth. Famous examples include a video of Nancy Pelosi doctored to make her look drunk, and one of Keir Starmer created by the Tory party for social media where he appeared unable to answer a question. Posting on Twitter this week, Donald Trump shared a fake gif of Joe Biden sticking his tongue out.

There are debates over the copyright implications of AI-created videos such as the Jay-Z performances, with digital access advocates Creative Commons arguing: “It is ill-advised to force the application of the copyright system – an antiquated system that has yet to adapt to the digital environment – on to AI.”


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