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Who owns the outcome of generative artificial intelligence?

Generative artificial intelligence produces text, pictures and music that look like created by humans. But who owns the outcome of content produced by AI? Specialists at World Economic Forum are warning that copyright laws need to change to keep up with the potential of AI.

With generative AI impacting content creation, it is essential for policy-makers and legislators to re-examine and update copyright laws to enable appropriate attribution, and ethical and legal reuse of existing content”, specialists write summarising results of a conference called “Responsible AI Leadership: A Global Summit on Generative AI”  that took place in San Francisco. 

Trying to answer the question if content made by AI is copyrightable, it seems specialists agree that it depends on the level of human interaction. Have humans used AI to produce the content or is it fully software produced?

The fast growing interest in using generative AI is leading to copyright discussions with several rightsholders already having announced they will go to court if not properly compensated. The Financial Times reports that the UK government has turned to media to learn more about how UK media sees the development of genAI and copyright. 

Owners of huge amounts of data, that can be used for deep learning of AI software, are taking action to protect the use of their data making sure they will be compensated by those using it to build AI solutions.

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Legal experts writing in Harvard Business Review say that “ the legal implications of using generative AI are still unclear, particularly in relation to copyright infringement, ownership of AI-generated works, and unlicensed content in training data.” 

“Courts are currently trying to establish how intellectual property laws should be applied to generative AI, and several cases have already been filed”, write  Gil Appel, Assistant Professor of Marketing at the GW School of Business, Juliana Neelbauer, partner at Fox Rothschild LLP and David A. Schweidel, Professor of Marketing at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. 

 Professor Arun Sundararajan, New York University, thinks an important factor when discussing AI and copyright is the scalability: Once this is encoded into an AI system, new creations can be generated at a breath taking pace, he told a World Economic Forum conference.

Sundararajan said that every AI system we use was created by training it on examples. 

“A lot of discussion has focused on whether it’s OK for AI companies to use other people’s creations for this. The law is unclear at present.”

“The law is also unclear today on the ownership associated with something generated by AI, a particular creation. So if an AI system writes a story or generates a piece of art or composes a song, in some jurisdictions, if it is completely AI-generated with no human participation at all, nobody owns it, it’s in the public domain.”

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“If there’s enough human assistance, such as providing a storyline which the AI completes for you or you outline a song and the song is then AI-generated, then you can continue to own the copyright.”

“On the issue of who owns the creative process, there seems to be little or no law that is giving us a definitive answer on how we can reclaim ownership of our creative process.”

Sundararajan thinks it is likely that the US, the EU or China – one of these three – will take a leadership role and define the first set of guidelines and laws around individuals’ ownership of their creative processes and the use of data to train something like ChatGPT.

The Hollywood Reporter says a federal judge recently upheld a finding from the U.S. Copyright Office that a piece of art created by AI is not open to protection. 

Copyright law has “never stretched so far” to “protect works generated by new forms of technology operating absent any guiding human hand,” U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell found, The Hollywood reporter writes.

The question was whether a work generated solely by a computer falls under the protection of copyright law.

“In the absence of any human involvement in the creation of the work, the clear and straightforward answer is the one given by the Register: No,” Howell wrote.”

Sundararajan said that “ in the broadest sense, we need to retain ownership of our intelligence as humans. How do we update intellectual property law to protect not just individual creations, but to protect an individual’s creative process?”

Read Also:  Maria Ressa chairing international committee developing charter for AI use in media

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