By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 5 June 2023
When the Beatles broke up more than 50 years ago, devastated fans were left yearning for more. Now, artificial intelligence is offering just that. From ‘re-uniting’ the Fab Four on songs from their solo careers, to re-imagining surviving superstar Paul McCartney’s later works with his voice restored to its youthful peak, the new creations show off how far this technology has come — and raise a host of ethical and legal questions.
“I’m sobbing! This is so beautiful!!!”, wrote a listener in a typical YouTube comment for a fan-created AI cover of McCartney’s 2013 single, New, which features de-aged vocals and a bridge part ‘sung’ by his great songwriting partner and friend, the late John Lennon.
Equally impressive is a version of Grow Old With Me, one of the last songs penned by Lennon, which was posthumously released after his 1980 murder and recently remade by an AI creator who goes by Dae Lims.
With enhanced audio quality, an orchestral arrangement and harmonised backing vocals that evoke the Liverpudlian rockers’ heyday, the song’s most stirring moment comes when McCartney croons over a soaring melody with poignant lyrics about ageing. “When I hear this, I lose it. I start crying,” said music YouTuber Steve Onotera, who goes by ‘SamuraiGuitarist’ and has a million followers, in a recent video discussing the new works’ unforeseen sentimental resonance.
After the most influential band in history parted ways acrimoniously, fans were deprived of a final “happy ending,” he said. “So when we do get that reunion artificially yet convincingly created by AI, well, it’s surprisingly emotional.”
AI here, there and everywhere
Like an earlier track called Heart on a Sleeve which featured AI-generated vocals of Drake and The Weeknd and racked up millions of hits on TikTok and other platforms, these covers use scraping technology that analyzes and captures the nuances of a particular voice. The creators would have probably then sung the parts themselves and then applied the cloned voice, in a manner similar to placing a filter on a photograph..
While the results can be astonishing, getting there isn’t simple and requires skilled human operators combining new AI tools with extensive knowledge of traditional music processing software, Zohaib Ahmed, the CEO of Resemble AI, a Toronto-based voice cloning company, told AFP. “I think we’re still seeing a very small percentage of the population that can even access these tools,” he said. They need to “jump through hoops, read documentation, have the right computer, and then put it all together.”
Ahmed’s company is one of several offering a platform that can make the technology more accessible to clients in the entertainment sector — and counts a recent Netflix documentary series “narrated” by late art icon Andy Warhol using its technology as an early success.
For Patricia Alessandrini, a composer and assistant professor at Stanford’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics, the recent spate of AI tracks represents a coming-of-age for a technology that has been advancing exponentially — yet largely out of public view over the past decade..
“This is a great example of what AI does very well, which is anything that’s resemblance: to train it on something existing,” she told AFP. But, she added, it flounders when it comes to new ideas. “There’s really no expectation that it’s going to replace the rich history of humans originating art and culture.”
For the music industry, the ramifications are enormous. As the technology progresses, software that will easily allow people to transform their vocals into one of their favourite singers is likely not far away.
“If they’re getting paid for their vocal license, hey, everyone’s happy,” said Onotera. “But what if they’re long since passed away? Is it up to their estate?” AI is already proving a helter-skelter impact on the copyright world.
In the case of Heart on a Sleeve, Universal Music Group was quick to assert copyright claims and have the track pulled down from streaming services, but that hasn’t stopped it from popping back up on small accounts.
Marc Ostrow, a New York-based music copyright lawyer, told AFP AI-generated music is a “grey area.”
Copyright can be asserted both by songwriters whose material is used, as well as the holders of the master recordings.
On the other hand, AI creators can argue it falls under “fair use” citing a 2015 court ruling that said Google was permitted to archive the world’s books because it wasn’t competing with sellers and was displaying only snippets.
Last month, however, the US Supreme Court tipped the balance back the other way in ruling a Warhol print of the late pop star Prince violated the copyright of the photographer who took the original image.
Add to the mix that celebrities can protect their likeness under the “right to publicity,” established when Bette Midler successfully sued Ford Motor Company in the late 1980s for using a singer that sounded like her in an ad.
Ultimately, “I think there may be voluntary industry standards… or it’s going to be done by litigation,” said Ostrow. Rights holders will also need to think about the negative PR that could come with suing over works that are clearly fan-created tributes and not intended to be monetized.
OTT Platforms in India Using 5G Networks Without Paying Up, Claims COAI DG
By Press Trust of India | Updated: 15 September 2023
Cellular Operators Association of India Director General S P Kochhar on Thursday made a case for sharing profit between OTT players and telecom companies for using 5G networks.
“While telcos carry their traffic of voice and data, majority of the use of these networks is done by OTT players who load these networks with massive amounts of data which they carry to the end users.
“They get it from content providers, put it on their platform and deliver it to the end users without paying anything to the network providers who have created the network for them to roll on,” Kochhar said.
OTT players, including Netflix, Amazon Prime, Zee5, SonyLIV have significant user base in India.
He said over-the-top platforms benefit from the roll-out of advanced technologies like 5G.
“It is like building a house and staying in one floor and other floors are given out on rent which are used by the tenant for commercial purposes but he doesn’t pay the rent.
“This is very silly. If I have built something and I give it out on rent, I expect some value to come out of it. I’m not saying that the entire amount of profit that you earn will come to me but some amount should,” he pointed out.
Telcos are facing financial distress because of their huge capex that they have incurred to roll out 5G networks, he added.
“We are asking for a fair share for setting up, maintaining and running these networks,” Kochhar added.
Reports suggest that India’s video OTT market is expected to touch $12.5 billion (nearly Rs. 1,03,890 crore) by 2030 on the back of access to better networks, digital connectivity and smartphones.
Viacom18 Bags Indian Cricket Digital and TV Media Rights for Nearly Rs. 6,000 Crore
By Press Trust of India | Updated: 1 September 2023
Viacom18 on Thursday created a near monopoly in Indian cricket broadcasting sphere by bagging both TV and digital rights of the national team’s home series for the next five years with a cumulative bid of approximately Rs. 6000 crore, beating Star India and Sony in a three-way battle.
The BCCI had invited separate e-bids for both linear (TV) and digital for best price discovery.
“Viacom18 paid Rs. 3101 crore (approximately) for digital and Rs. 2862 crore for linear (TV). As has been the trend, digital has fetched more in Rs. 5963 crore (approximately) deal.
“With IPL digital rights being bought by Viacom for Rs. 26,000 crore plus, they now have almost all the high profile cricket properties save IPL linear (TV) and ICC events,” a broadcasting industry source, tracking developments closely, told PTI on conditions of anonymity.
The rights will come into effect with India’s three-match home series against Australia beginning September 22 and end on March 31, 2028.
India will be playing 88 international games across three formats including 25 Tests, 27 ODIs and 36 T20Is with per match value of the deal standing around Rs. 67.76 crore. This is nearly Rs. 7.76 crore more than last cycle’s Rs. 60 crore per match value.
However, the BCCI is getting Rs. 175 crore less than Rs. 6138 crore it received during last cycle which had more games, specifically 102. If one looks at the prevailing market sentiments , it is not a bad price to fetch as the per match valuation has increased. One needs to factor in that only marquee Test matches and series versus England and Australia will fetch a decent advertisement revenue. For matches against other nations, it is only the T20 which is the cash cow.
India will play Australia in 21 games and will be pitted against England in 18 matches across three formats during the next five years.
The BCCI fell way short of the billion dollar mark (at least by Rs. 2300 crore) and one of the reasons forthat could be the declining popularity of the ODI format and there are 27 of them in the next cycle.
“One day bilateral series save World Cup year should be done away with as it doesn’t bring requisite revenues. With so many T20 leagues also happening around the world, the viewers’ fatigue should also be taken into account,” a broadcasting industry veteran said.
He also provided an interesting take on how the potential bidders do their mathematics and arrive at a particular figure.
“In case of 25 Tests, you have 15 Tests against England and Australia at home. The kind of pitches that is being prepared for Test matches in India, the broadcaster has literally no chance on most of the occasions to commercially exploit the fifth day unless there is a flat deck.
“At times games finish during first session of fourth day. Just calculate how many potential seconds of ad revenue you can lose,” he explained.
Global Video Gaming Revenue Expected to Hit $187.7 Billion in 2023 as Console Sales Rise by Over 7 Percent
By Reuters | Updated: 8 August 2023
The global video games market would return to growth in 2023 on the back of strong sales of consoles such as Sony’s PlayStation 5, according to gaming market research firm Newzoo.
Newzoo said it expects industry revenue to rise 2.6 percent to $187.7 billion (roughly Rs. 15,54,231 crore) in 2023, driven by a 7.4 percent rise in console sales in the year. Gaming revenue fell 5 percent in 2022, according to the research firm’s data.
“Many highly anticipated delayed titles launched in 2023, with more scheduled for release in H2 (second half), and the supply of new consoles has finally caught up to demand,” said Newzoo analyst Tom Wijman.
PlayStation maker Sony said in July it expects to sell 25 million units of PS5 consoles this year, a record for any PlayStation devices, as supply chain issues ease.
Market research firm Circana said US consumer spending on video game hardware was up by 23 percent in the first half of 2023. But spending on video game content was flat during the period, as gamers stuck with proven franchises such as Activision Blizzard’s “Call of Duty”.
Earlier this month, “Apex Legends” publisher Electronic Arts forecast downbeat net bookings for the September quarter due to lower in-game spending on items such as character skins. However, the company maintained its 2024 bookings forecast as it expects to debut “EA Sports FC”, its football franchise game, in September.
Newzoo expects mobile games to account for nearly 50 percent of global gaming revenues in 2023 even as privacy policies of Apple and Google hamper their monetization.
Newzoo also said cloud gaming, which allows gamers to stream titles directly on devices irrespective of their technical specifications, has the potential to rack up 43.1 million paying users by the end of the year.
© Thomson Reuters 2023
Barbie, Starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, Crosses $1 Billion at Global Box Office
By ANI | Updated: 7 August 2023 13:41 IST
Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling starrer fantasy comedy-drama film Barbie has now crossed $1 billon (approximately Rs. 8,273 crore) globally in just its third weekend after its release on July 21. Taking to Instagram, the makers announced the news of the box office collections landmark with a special post which they captioned, “Here’s to our incredible Barbies and Kens from all around the world for making our Barbie dreams come true. We’re excited to share that #BarbieTheMovie has hit $1 Billion at the Global Box Office.”
According to Variety, a US-based media house, this makes director Greta Gerwig the first-ever solo female filmmaker with a billion-dollar film. Three other billion-dollar blockbusters were co-directed by women, including Frozen ($1.3 billion) and Frozen 2 ($1.45 billion) both co-directed by Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, as well as Captain Marvel ($1.1 billion), co-directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, as per Variety.
Barbie hit the milestone just after 17 days of its release, becoming the fastest Warner Bros. release to join the $1 billion club. Earlier the fantasy drama film Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 held that record for the studio at 19 days. It’s only the second blockbuster this year and the sixth of the pandemic era to cross $1 billion, following Spider-Man: No Way Home, Top Gun: Maverick, Jurassic World Dominion and Avatar: The Way of Water, reported Variety.
Barbie is directed by Greta Gerwig, and stars Margot Robbie as the famous doll and Ryan Gosling as her boyfriend Ken. As per Variety, Greta’s directorial Barbie raked in $155 million (approximately Rs. 1,282 crore) in its opening weekend, marking the biggest debut ever for a film directed by a woman. Barbie cost $145 million (approximately Rs. 1,200 crore) to produce, not including a marketing campaign that propelled the movie into the mainstream long before it landed in theatres. Gerwig, the Oscar-nominated director of Lady Bird and Little Women, co-wrote the film’s screenplay with Noah Baumbach.
Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling star as the stereotypical versions of Barbie and Ken, who leave the world of Barbieland on a quest for self-discovery in the real world. The cast also includes America Ferrera, Issa Rae, Dua Lipa, Simu Liu, Michael Cera, Helen Mirren, John Cena, and Will Ferrell, among others.
- Release Date21 July 2023
- GenreComedy, Romance
- CastMargot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, America Ferrera, Simu Liu, Kate McKinnon, Ariana Greenblatt, Alexandra Shipp, Emma Mackey, Will Ferrell, Issa Rae, Michael Cera, Hari Nef, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Rhea Perlman, Ncuti Gatwa, Emerald Fennell, Sharon Rooney, Scott Evans, Ana Cruz Kayne, Connor Swindells, Ritu Arya, Jamie Demetriou
- DirectorGreta Gerwig
- ProducerMargot Robbie, Tom Ackerley, Robbie Brenner, David Heyman
Netflix Cuts Ad Prices, Restructures Partnership With Microsoft: Report
By Reuters | Updated: 27 July 2023
Netflix is restructuring its advertising partnership with Microsoft for its lower-priced ad-supported subscription plan and is also cutting ad prices, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.
The streaming company launched the $7(roughly Rs. 560)-per-month plan with commercials last year in 12 markets, including the US, to attract more customers and selected Microsoft as its technology and sales partner for the offering, partly because it offered to pay a revenue guarantee, the report said.
Netflix is now reworking the agreement to reduce the revenue guarantee due to slowing growth of the ad tier, the report said, adding that company executives are frustrated that Microsoft has not sold more ad inventory.
In addition, Netflix has held early discussions to sell ads through other partners apart from Microsoft, and has also offered them better deals, the report said.
Some advertisers have agreed to pay Netflix roughly $39 (roughly Rs. 3,100) to $45 (roughly Rs. 3,600) per 1,000 viewers in recent deals, according to ad buyers, down from around $45 to $55 (roughly Rs. 4,500), WSJ said.
Microsoft and Netflix did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment.
Last week, the video-streaming company reported a lackluster revenue rise which sparked concerns of a longer road to growth from its new initiatives, with co-CEO Greg Peters cautioning it would take “several quarters” to see returns from those efforts.
© Thomson Reuters 2023
Toronto International Film Festival Unveils Packed Lineup Despite Actors’ Strike
By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 25 July 2023
The Toronto International Film Festival, North America’s largest, on Monday, unveiled an A-list lineup of world premieres amid the Hollywood strikes, including movies starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Seth Rogen. The festival, which has been a launchpad for numerous Oscar-winning movies, is moving ahead with plans for its September 7 to 17 event in the face of doubts over whether the big names will come to promote their work. The Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) is on strike in a battle with studios over pay and other work conditions, meaning that its members generally cannot promote films produced by studios and streamers involved in the dispute.
However, SAG-AFTRA negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland told Hollywood news outlet Deadline that actors could benefit from some kind of ‘interim agreement’ to head to Toronto in support of independent features. On the list of world premieres slated for TIFF are several expected award contenders including ‘Dumb Money’, starring Rogen and Paul Dano, about the amateur investors who turned GameStop into a Wall Street phenomenon in 2021. De Niro stars in actor Tony Goldwyn’s ‘Ezra’, about a man (Bobby Cannavale) who moves back in with his father (De Niro) after blowing up his career and marriage.
Other world premieres include Taika Waititi’s sports comedy ‘Next Goal Wins’, French filmmaker Ladj Ly’s drama ‘Les Indesirables’, Atom Egoyan’s ‘Seven Veils’ starring Amanda Seyfried, and Michael Keaton’s ‘Knox Goes Away’, starring Pacino. Also on tap is the international premiere of awards hopeful ‘The Holdovers’ from director Alexander Payne (Sideways) about a teacher (Paul Giamatti) tasked with supervising students at a boarding school who cannot go home for Christmas break.
TIFF CEO Cameron Bailey said in a statement that the lineup showcased a “rich tapestry of talent, vision, and storytelling.” The Toronto film fest is a key part of the fall festival lineup, along with Venice and Telluride, at which movies hoping to build early Oscars momentum typically hold lavish premieres.
TIFF’s annual People’s Choice Award has become an increasingly accurate Oscars bellwether, predicting eventual best picture winners such as ‘Nomadland’, which took home the Academy Award in 2021, and ‘Green Book’. The event only returned to full strength in 2022, after two years of online or hybrid events staged amid the coronavirus pandemic.
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