Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a rapidly evolving technology that has permeated a diverse range of domains, including natural language processing, image recognition, and product recommendation systems. AI has made significant breakthroughs in various areas, such as language translation and speech recognition, allowing machines to produce text and communicate with humans more effectively than ever before.
For example, Google Lens employs AI in image recognition to identify objects and provide information about them using the camera on a mobile device. In contrast, Amazon’s product suggestion system harnesses machine learning algorithms to analyze users’ shopping behavior and offer personalized recommendations based on their preferences.
AI has also made its way into the art world, where “Edmond de Belamy,” an AI-generated portrait, was sold for a staggering $432,500 at a major auction. This marked the first instance of an AI-generated artwork being sold at such a high-profile event, prompting concerns about whether such works are eligible for copyright protection.
Copyright law typically grants exclusive rights to creators of original works, allowing them to maintain control over how their creations are used, copied, and distributed. When it comes to training AI models, the use of copyrighted materials is considered to be in a legal grey area. As it stands now, copyright laws do not safeguard any creation that is wholly generated by AI, regardless of whether it stemmed from a human-crafted text prompt. While fair use laws permit the use of copyrighted material under certain conditions without the owner’s permission, the ongoing legal disputes could disrupt this status quo and bring uncertainty in the future of AI model training.
Undoubtedly, the advent of generative AI has revolutionized our lifestyle, labor practices, and artistry output within a mere few months. In turn, the inundation of AI-fabricated written works, pictures, and tunes, alongside the mechanisms through which they were created, has stimulated a plethora of intricate legal inquiries. These challenge our understanding of ownership, fairness, and the core foundation of innovation.
Is It Possible To Copyright Art Created By AI?
The question of whether AI-generated art can be protected by copyright laws is a subject of much debate. The U.S. Copyright Office has stated that creations made by non-human entities, including machines, cannot be eligible for copyright protection. This means that the product of a generative AI model cannot be considered copyrightable.
The challenge stems from the way generative AI systems operate. These models learn by identifying and replicating patterns found in data. To produce output such as written text or images, the AI system must first learn from human creations. For instance, an AI-generated image resembling the art of Japanese artist Yokoyama Taikan would have been trained using actual pieces of art created by the human artist. Similarly, to generate written content in the style of J.K. Rowling, the AI system would require training with words written by J.K. Rowling.
However, according to current U.S. copyright law, these AI systems – which include image and music generators, as well as chatbots like ChatGPT – cannot be seen as the creators of the content they produce. Instead, their outputs result from a culmination of human-generated work, much of which is copyrighted in some form and sourced from the internet. Nonetheless, this doesn’t necessarily mean that AI-generated works are in the public domain. For example, if a company employs AI to produce content, that company may still have proprietary rights to that content, such as a trade secret or patent.
This raises a difficult question: how can the rapidly evolving artificial intelligence industry be reconciled with the intricate details of U.S. copyright law? This is a question that creative professionals, companies, courts, and the U.S. government are all grappling with as they navigate the complexities and nuances of AI-generated content and intellectual property laws.
Could Copyright Concerns Become More Challenging As Humans Collaborate With AI To Produce Work?
The topic of copyright protection for creative works resulting from collaboration between humans and machines is quite complicated. The Copyright Office specifies that if a human creatively arranges or selects AI-generated material, or modifies it in a sufficiently creative way, then copyright protection will only apply to the human-authored portions of the work, and not the AI-generated material itself. However, when it comes to works created jointly by humans and machines, the issue of copyright protection is less clear, and registration applications must identify all joint authors.
Using generative AI to create artistic works can also raise concerns regarding copyright infringement if the output bears similarities to pre-existing works on the internet. These models often learn from existing works found online, which may result in similarities to previous works. While there are instances where a human creatively arranges or selects AI-generated material, resulting in copyright protection for only the human-authored components of the work, the situation becomes less clear with jointly created works. It is necessary to name all joint authors, which could potentially include the AI, in registration applications. It can be challenging to determine whether generative AI output is a derivative work or infringes upon the rights of previous authors.
Legal Battles Emerge In The Age Of Generative AI
Getty Images has taken legal action against Stability AI for allegedly copying more than 12 million photos from Getty Images’ collection and using them in generative AI systems without proper permission or licensing. Stability AI is one of several companies facing lawsuits related to generative AI. The rise of generative AI technology has led to creative industries filing lawsuits over the use of copyrighted work by AI, including the recent lawsuit by a group of artists against Stability AI, Midjourney, and DeviantArt for alleged mass copyright infringement.
In another legal case involving generative AI, a group of companies including Microsoft, GitHub, and OpenAI were collectively sued for copyright infringement related to their AI-powered coding aide GitHub Copilot. The plaintiffs claimed that Copilot generated code derived from code licensed under open source without the necessary authorization. The case aims to attain class-action status and could have an impact on the entire AI industry. They have however submitted a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that Copilot produces unique code and not identical copies of the data used for training.
These lawsuits highlight the legal implications of using generative AI and its increasing prevalence. The outcome of these legal actions and their influence on the AI industry remain uncertain.
Copyright law is a crucial component in safeguarding intellectual property and promoting creativity. It enables creators to control how their work is used, shared, and modified, motivating them to produce more by providing them with exclusive rights. Additionally, Creative Commons licenses give creators the option to select the degree of protection they prefer for their work.
With the rise of AI technology, it has become increasingly involved in the creative process. AI can generate original content and work with humans to create collaborative works, highlighting the need for a legal framework that considers copyright protection for such works. It’s vital to strike a balance between protecting creators’ rights while fostering innovation and creativity. The trajectory of copyright law concerning AI-generated content remains unpredictable, but one thing is evident: the legal framework will evolve significantly as AI technology becomes further integrated into the creative process.
Anndy Lian is an early blockchain adopter and experienced serial entrepreneur who is known for his work in the government sector. He is a best selling book author- “NFT: From Zero to Hero” and “Blockchain Revolution 2030”.
Currently, he is appointed as the Chief Digital Advisor at Mongolia Productivity Organization, championing national digitization. Prior to his current appointments, he was the Chairman of BigONE Exchange, a global top 30 ranked crypto spot exchange and was also the Advisory Board Member for Hyundai DAC, the blockchain arm of South Korea’s largest car manufacturer Hyundai Motor Group. Lian played a pivotal role as the Blockchain Advisor for Asian Productivity Organisation (APO), an intergovernmental organization committed to improving productivity in the Asia-Pacific region.
An avid supporter of incubating start-ups, Anndy has also been a private investor for the past eight years. With a growth investment mindset, Anndy strategically demonstrates this in the companies he chooses to be involved with. He believes that what he is doing through blockchain technology currently will revolutionise and redefine traditional businesses. He also believes that the blockchain industry has to be “redecentralised”.