As Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” film is ready to hit theaters this weekend, a canopy of Aqua’s 1997-hit “Barbie Woman” by the late Johnny Money is racking up views on YouTube — besides that is not Johnny Money.
Set to the tune of “Folsom Jail Blues,” the video could sound similar to the well-known nation singer, who died in 2003, however musician Dustin Ballard instructed Fox Enterprise it is truly his voice augmented by an AI voice mannequin that is singing “I am a Barbie lady, in a Barbie world.”
The video, which additionally mashes up “Wannabe” by Spice Women and “Get together within the USA” by Miley Cyrus with Money’s signature fashion, was posted to Ballard’s channel, “There I Ruined It,” and has racked up greater than 650,000 views. Ballard says his channel — conceived “in a second of musical boredom” through the COVID-19 pandemic — is devoted to taking beloved songs and “lovingly” destroying them by altering the style and melody, however protecting the lips synched to the phrases.
“I usually attempt to consider essentially the most musically inappropriate mixture I can,” Ballard mentioned. “I really like Johnny Money, and the lyrics of Barbie Woman appeared about as removed from his typical repertoire as I may think about.”
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Early examples of his work embody Nirvana’s “Come As You Are” as an old school swing tune, or a honky-tonk model of “Each Breath You Take” by The Police.
“I had the concept of taking a music video and fully changing the audio with my very own devices and singing,” he defined in an e mail. “These movies usually went viral on YouTube and Reddit, so I’ve continued discovering methods to ‘wreck’ songs.”
However his newest movies stand out for convincingly resurrecting deceased artists like Money, Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra by the ability of synthetic intelligence.
“AI has been a pure match for what I am doing,” Ballard mentioned. He defined that AI is simply an “further step” in his regular video-making course of.
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“I nonetheless carry out the singing myself, attempting to match the cadence of the unique artist in order that the ultimate result’s convincing. It’s not so simple as pushing a button and having the music generated for you,” he instructed Fox Enterprise. “There’s a rising assortment of A.I. voice fashions out there (skilled on snippets of audio from the artist). I even have a man in Argentina I can name upon to create a voice for me.”
The AI fashions Ballard referenced embody open-source voice cloning packages like SoftVC VITS Singing Voice Conversion, or paid-for companies like Uberduck or Voicify, which have fueled an explosion of fan-made deep-fakes that includes well-liked songs and well-known artists. Search “AI cowl” on YouTube and every thing from Donald Trump and Joe Biden overlaying “Sultans of Swing” by Dire Straits to SpongeBob character Mr. Krabs singing Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” is a click on away.
The know-how provides content material creators a enjoyable and thrilling alternative to specific themselves, however it has additionally began a debate over authorized points involving mental property rights and copyright legislation.
An AI-generated music simulating Drake and The Weeknd’s voices and types went viral in April earlier than it was faraway from a number of main streaming platforms over copyright issues. The music, “Coronary heart on my Sleeve,” spotlighted how copyright legislation could apply and evolve in response to quickly advancing AI.
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Legal professional Bryan Rotella, managing associate and senior basic counsel at GenCo Authorized in Tampa, instructed Fox Information that copyright legislation applies to not an artist’s fashion — distinctive presentational or compositional traits, like lyrical prose, distinguishing them from different artists — however to “a selected authentic work” an artist created.
Whereas artists could imitate or depict different content material creators — resembling comedians performing impersonations or actors portraying musical icons in movies — they can not “copy an artist’s particular work and publish it as their very own,” Rotella mentioned.
Nevertheless, the lawyer defined that copying an artist’s voice with AI could run afoul of the authorized “proper of publicity,” which goals to forestall the unauthorized industrial use of somebody’s identification, together with their likeness or different recognizable elements of their persona, in accordance with Cornell Legislation Faculty.
However a lawsuit introduced over AI-generated voices hasn’t occurred but, and the brand new know-how operates in a murky space of the legislation. The U.S. Copyright Workplace is at the moment inspecting how AI interacts with the legislation and has issued steerage requiring candidates to reveal the inclusion of AI-generated content material of their works submitted for registration.
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Ballard described his movies as protected parody and says that “nearly with out exception,” the artists he is featured have reacted positively. He has assembled a number of proficient musicians and shaped a band that can quickly hit the stage enjoying his covers round Dallas, Texas.
“Artists like Ed Sheeran, Snoop Dogg and Nicki Minaj have even shared and duetted my songs,” Ballard instructed Fox Enterprise. “With that mentioned, getting official approvals for streaming these or monetizing them on YouTube is usually almost unattainable. AI appears to be a fair murkier matter with regard to copyrights.
“Discovering the proper steadiness between an artist’s private identification and the artistic expression of others is a debate that performs out proper within the remark part of my movies,” Ballard mentioned.
“I haven’t got the reply.”
Fox Information’ Gabrielle Reyes contributed to this report.