Musicians, including RATM's Tom Morello, urge Spotify never to use patented voice recognition...

midian182

Posts: 6,782   +61
Staff member
What just happened? Many musicians take issue with streaming services, usually over royalty payments, but a group of artists is protesting against something more customer-focused. The target of their anger is a speech recognition tool Spotify patented earlier this year that recommends music based on “emotional state, gender, age, or accent.”

Spotify’s patent, granted on January 12, describes analyzing users’ voice and background noise to detect their mood and social setting, such as whether they are in a coffee shop, alone, at a party, etc., and make track suggestions based on this data. The system can also infer gender, age, and accent from a person’s speech.

Not surprisingly, plenty of people are unhappy about what sounds like an invasive feature. Digital rights non-profit Access Now asked Spotify to abandon any plans for the technology last month. Now, it is one of several groups and over 180 musicians trying to achieve the same goal. In an open letter, the campaigners call on the company to make a public commitment never to use, license, sell, or monetize the voice analyses system.

“This recommendation technology is dangerous, a violation of privacy and other human rights, and should not be implemented by Spotify or any other company,” the letter states. “Any use of this technology is unacceptable.”

The letter points out five major concerns regarding the technology: emotion manipulation, discrimination, privacy violations, data security, and exacerbating inequality in the music industry.

Signatories include Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, rapper Talib Kweli, Laura Jane Grace from Against Me!, and advocacy group Amnesty International.

“You can’t rock out when you’re under constant corporate surveillance,” said Morello. “Spotify needs to drop this right now and do right by musicians, music fans, and all music workers.”

“Claiming to be able to infer someone’s taste in music based on their accent or detect their gender based on the sound of their voice is racist, transphobic, and just plain creepy,” said musician Evan Greer in a statement.

In response to the request, Spotify has pointed to the letter it sent Access Now in April. “Spotify has never implemented the technology described in the patent in any of our products and we have no plans to do so,” it reads. “The decision to patent an invention does not always reflect the company’s intent to implement the invention in a product, but is instead influenced by a number of other considerations, including our responsibilities to our users and to society at large.”

Center image credit: Sterling Munksgard

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Dimitriid

Posts: 537   +898
The decision to patent an invention does not always reflect the company’s intent to implement the invention in a product, but is instead influenced by a number of other considerations, including our responsibilities to our users and to society at large.

So in other words "We are not evil: this is just an example of the patent system being completely broken beyond repair and us forced to use it just to avoid legal complications"

In reality however, Spotify probably *will* use it and not tell anybody about it AND they are also doing it to hold on to the patent to avoid trolls too, so in a depressing twist it's a little bit of both.
 

Avro Arrow

Posts: 1,256   +1,385
TechSpot Elite
I agree with this. This will basically deny me types of music that I might like simply because people my age, gender and/or accent might not listen to it as much as other types.

The other question is, how can it tell a Canadian from an American? In a lot of cases, we sound exactly the same when we speak.
 
I agree with this. This will basically deny me types of music that I might like simply because people my age, gender and/or accent might not listen to it as much as other types.

The other question is, how can it tell a Canadian from an American? In a lot of cases, we sound exactly the same when we speak.

Canadians sound just like Americans when they're at home, but when they're out and about, they sound different. ;-)
 

Avro Arrow

Posts: 1,256   +1,385
TechSpot Elite
Canadians sound just like Americans when they're at home, but when they're out and about, they sound different. ;-)
You know, I've only ever ONCE heard a Canadian say "oot and aboot" and I can guarantee you that it's a false affectation on his part (he's some brain-dead YouTuber from Vancouver Island). However, I have heard some Canadians say "a-boat" without realising it. Of course, that means I don't say it because otherwise I wouldn't have noticed, eh? I'm "soary" if that disappoints you. :p

If you want to REALLY hear a true Canadian speech affectation that only exists in the Maritime provinces... just listen when someone from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island or Newfoundland says "ar" as in car, bar, harm, barn, etc. Now, I'm an atheist but we have this really cool and funny Anglican rector in Canada from Nova Scotia and he sounds perfectly normal until he says something with "ar" in it. Check this out:
At time index 1:30, listen to how he pronounces "Death StAR".

There are few things funnier than a video about Star Wars made by a high-ranking priest. :laughing:
 
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Danny101

Posts: 1,636   +701
Smartphones pretty much fits in every charge he's made since it's the primary tool of surveillance. Spotify is just piggybacking there.