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ABBA star urges musicians to take a chance on IP

On Friday, a new online platform was launched by the United Nations and ABBA songwriter Bjorn Ulvaeus. Its purpose is to aid musicians in comprehending their intellectual property rights against the looming threat of artificial intelligence disrupting the industry.

Published November 18,2023

The United Nations and ABBA songwriter Bjorn Ulvaeus launched a new online platform Friday to help musicians understand their intellectual property rights as artificial intelligence threatens to derail the industry.

CLIP -- Creators Learn Intellectual Property -- is free to use and aims to show artists how to make sure they receive due credit for their work, especially with content increasingly consumed online.

The UN's World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) teamed up with Ulvaeus, who co-wrote multiple mega-hits with Swedish pop group ABBA and co-founded the Music Rights Awareness Foundation.

Ulvaeus said CLIP was "sorely needed" as artificial intelligence risked flooding the market with billions of AI-generated songs based on the pre-existing work of others.

"The music industry today is so complex and getting more and more complex. And to be able to manoeuvre as a new songwriter, you need to know what you're doing," he told AFP.

"You need some kind of education about the rights that you have, and the necessary things you have to do when it comes to registering that song."

Ulvaeus said CLIP would help creators understand the complexities of the creative industries and maximise the value of their content.

The 78-year-old told a press conference at WIPO's Geneva headquarters such knowledge was essential to sustain a music career.

"Songwriting takes a lot of work and time -- and unless you can afford that time, you can't become really a good craftsman, even if you're talented. So you need to get paid, and to get paid you need to know your rights," he said.

Ulvaeus said the ease of streaming had curbed piracy, however, if musicians did not register their songs, the streaming services don't know who to pay.

ABBA -- Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Agnetha Faltskog -- are among the biggest-selling recording artists of all time.

But Ulvaeus said AI was now taking music into uncharted territory, with endless future possibilities as a creative tool for songwriters -- alongside the risk that streaming services will become swamped with artificially-created music.

"We have to separate between what is human and what is AI because otherwise the music industry will be destroyed," he said.

He gave the example of AI being prompted to produce an ABBA-style love ballad sung by Frank Sinatra, backed by a symphony orchestra.

"In the end, it's going to be impossible to trace where the influence came from," he said.

"There has to be some kind of solution of how you remunerate those whose catalogues the AI models train on," the star said.

The first version of CLIP focuses just on the music industry, helping users to understand the players involved in bringing a song to market, and to get a grip on music creator rights.

"Creators draw on their talent and artistic vision to give us music, art, song and dance," WIPO director general Daren Tang said.

"CLIP will support creators with the knowledge and skills they need to transform their artistic passion into a viable profession."

ABBA shot to global stardom after winning the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest with "Waterloo".

They produced a string of huge hits but split in 1982, a year after releasing the album "The Visitors".

The group reunited to release the album "Voyage" in 2021.

Ulvaeus said the public generally focuses on the performing artist, "and they forget that without the songs, the band or the singer won't be there".

"I'm a songwriter at heart and I've always thought that the songwriter, the creator, has been relegated to the periphery, when they should be right at the centre," he said.

"It all begins with a song."