Scammer sells AI-generated Frank Ocean's songs, makes thousands of dollars

Spotify recently pulled tens and thousands of fake AI songs from its platform.
Sejal Sharma
Singer Frank Ocean
Singer Frank Ocean

Wikimedia Commons 

We’ve definitely opened Pandora’s box when it comes to artificial intelligence (AI). 

What we’re witnessing in AI is the biggest shift in technology since the internet itself. For the musically inclined, this means we now live in a world where it’s hard to differentiate between a real artist’s voice and an AI-generated one, which is exactly what happened recently to Frank Ocean’s fans.

A scammer, who goes by the handle ‘mourningassasin’ on Discord, posted a collection of AI-generated Frank Ocean songs and put them on sale. That lured Ocean’s fans and the underground community of music collectors like Icarus to the Sun. Mourningassasin was successful in his scam and ended up making $13,000 (CAD) from selling the fake music.

Vice’s Motherboard spoke to mourningassasin, who revealed that they had initially posted an original song of the Grammy award-winning artist to rope people in. Once the post generated interest, people started contacting them and offered to pay big money for the fake songs.

“Instantly, I noticed everyone started to believe it,” said mourningassasin, who reportedly charged $3,000 to $4,000 per song.

Why people believed mourningassasin might have something to do with the fact that Ocean hasn't released an album since 2016. During a livestream at Coachella last month, the singer teased his fans that there might be a new album coming soon. This possibly made the scammer's job easier to fool people into believing that they had his leaked music.

Generating fake music has become as easy as copying and pasting AI-generated lyrics into machine learning software and just letting the bot do all the hard work.

This is problematic

Only yesterday, Interesting Engineering reported on how the popular music streaming app Spotify had to remove thousands of AI-generated songs from its platform after they were flagged under ‘artificial streaming.’

These are not isolated incidents. Last month, another AI-generated song, using the cloned voices of Drake and The Weeknd, was pulled down by Spotify. The song was posted by an anonymous Tiktok user @ghostwriter977, whose account blew up overnight with millions of views.

The end result is that these anonymous posters end up making thousands of dollars off the music artist’s identity and likeability, leading to negative impacts on the artist. It might take years to get a legal precedent against AI-trained models infringing on the copyrights of musicians, and the music industry is starting to feel the heat.

Universal Music Group, which represents thousands of popular music artists from around the world, including Drake and The Weeknd, recently sent emails to online streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, and others to not let AI companies access copyrighted music “without obtaining the required consents,” to train their machines.

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