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Estate of Tupac Shakur sends cease-and-desist letter to Drake over AI vocals

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A lawyer representing the estate of Tupac Shakur sent a cease-and-desist letter to Drake on Wednesday after he used an AI-generated likeness of the late rapper’s voice in a diss track.

Howard King called “Taylor Made Freestyle” a “flagrant violation of Tupac’s publicity and the estate’s legal rights,” and said in the letter that if Drake fails to remove the track from the platforms where it’s available, the estate will consider suing.

Drake, born Aubrey Graham, dropped the track last week as part of an ongoing spat with Kendrick Lamar, who last month suggested that the Toronto rapper isn’t on his level.

“The unauthorized, equally dismaying use of Tupac’s voice against Kendrick Lamar, a good friend to the Estate who has given nothing but respect to Tupac and his legacy publicly and privately, compounds the insult,” King wrote.

Drake posted “Taylor Made Freestyle” on Instagram last Friday, and had yet to take it down by Thursday as King requested. As of Thursday, the video containing the track had garnered more than two million “likes.”

In the track, Drake suggests Lamar has yet to clap back at an earlier diss track because he feared competing with Taylor Swift, whose album “The Tortured Poets Department” was released last week.

“You supposed to be the boogeyman, go do what you do/Unless this is a moment that you tell us this not really you,” the Shakur sound-alike raps.

Drake’s track also includes a facsimile of Snoop Dogg’s voice, also generated by artificial intelligence, attempting to hype Lamar up to challenge Drake – a task Drake suggests Lamar isn’t up for.

In the letter, King claims Drake knowingly violated Shakur’s publicity rights, as Drake has pursued similar legal action in the past.

“Just a few years ago you used the same California laws that you knowingly violated with your AI sound-alike to challenge a much less publicized, and far more benign, use of your image on a specialized business website with a small audience,” King wrote.

Further, he pointed to the highly publicized case of a track containing an AI-generated Drake sound-alike.

Universal Music Group encouraged a crackdown on unauthorized use of its performers’ voices after a song cropped up online last year featuring AI vocals modelled after Drake and the Weeknd.

Universal said at the time that fake songs are “both a breach of our agreements and a violation of copyright law.”

There was, King wrote, “a great deal of news coverage highlighting how damaging the fake was to you.”

A spokesperson for Drake did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In addition to requesting that the track be removed from Drake’s social media, King said the artist must take “all steps necessary to have it removed from other websites and platforms.”

He also requested a detailed explanation of how the sound-alike was created.

“It is hard to believe that Amaru’s intellectual property was not scraped to create the fake Tupac AI on the record,” King wrote.

The law, he said, dictates that a person who uses a deceased personality’s name and voice for a commercial purpose “is liable for the harm caused, the person’s profits, and attorney fees.”

“If you comply, the Estate will consider whether an informal negotiation to resolve this matter makes sense,” King wrote. “If you do not comply, our client has authorized this firm to pursue all of its legal remedies.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 25, 2024.

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