Copyright and Artificial Intelligence

This content has been archived. It may no longer be relevant

From Plagiarism Today:

Depending on who you talk to, true artificial intelligence can be right around the corner or an impossible pipe dream that humanity will never reach.

However, there is one unavoidable truth. Computers are increasingly doing more and more of the heavy lifting when it comes to creating new content. Just in the consumer market we’ve gone from basic word processors to ones with spell check and now ones that can suggest sentences, correct grammar and make major changes, all without user input.

It’s a similar situation with photography where modern cameras, even the ones in phones, take a lot of the work out of setting up a shot and handle things like focus, light balancing and more. Humans are becoming less and less involved in creating art and computers are taking more and more of the burden from us.

But as that burden is removed and we inch closer and closer to machines being able to create fully independently from us, there is a serious question: Who, if anyone, owns the works they produce?

. . . .

Today, this question about AI and copyright is more of a hypothetical. It’s something to be explored by academics and science fiction authors. The reason is that we just don’t have artificial intelligence that’s able to truly create art independent from its human overlords.

The fact that I use predictive text on my phone or the automatic setting on my camera doesn’t mean I’m not the copyright holder in the things I write and the images I take. This is something codified directly into the law itself with 17 U.S. Code § 102 saying that works that qualify for copyright protection do so whether they are made “directly or with the aid of a machine or device.”

Copyright is awarded to works of human creativity that are fixed into a tangible medium of expression. However, the creativity requirement is very low and the work only need to feature a “spark” of creativity to qualify.

As such, any work created by an AI in 2019 would likely be treated as a creative work by the person that directed the AI to make it. If you select a bunch of paintings and tell the AI to make a new one based upon them, the selection of the paintings is, of itself, a creative act, the AI is just a tool to interpret that creativity.

To that end, the AI is little more than a more complicated autocorrect or autofocus in that it’s a tool for interpreting human creativity and aiding in the creation of a new work.

However, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t some interesting questions in 2019. Take, for example, the following scenarios:

Heliograf: Since at least 2017, the Washington Post has been using Heliograf, an AI reporter, to cover sporting events that they can’t send a human reporter to. While humans are prompting it to write, all they are providing is factual information about the game including box scores and other data. The problem is that facts cannot be protected by copyright, even when compiled at great effort.

Obvious: Obvious is a group of artists and AI researchers that is using AI named Generative Adversarial Networks (GAN) to generate art. According to the collective, GAN operates without human interference and attempts to create artwork based upon images in its library (its unclear if Obvious chooses the images for GAN). The result is artwork that, while maybe not to everyone’s taste, has sold relatively well with one recent work selling for €10,000 ($12,000).

Link to the rest at Plagiarism Today

5 thoughts on “Copyright and Artificial Intelligence”

  1. “According to the collective, GAN operates without human interference and attempts to create artwork based upon images in its library”

    Providing the images is in fact human interference and thus this is not ‘AI art’.

    • Is it art if a human looks at a zillion images? Scans the world from birth? Maybe some images even provided to him? Is it art if a novelist reads novels, or a composer listens to a lot of music?

      The most fun in all the AI stuff will come when we acknowledge we have no idea what we mean by art, creativity, intelligence, emotion, etc. And worse, have no idea how we work.

  2. Depending on who you talk to, true artificial intelligence can be right around the corner or an impossible pipe dream that humanity will never reach.

    1. What is true AI? How does it differ from AI?
    2. How do we determine if true AI is in use? I suspect no matter the performance we will hear that it’s not the true version.

    For novels, I suggest a version of the Turing Test. A double blind test where readers are asked to identify the machine novels vs human novels.

    If there is no statistically significant ability of readers to tell the difference, then we can conclude:
    1. Writing novels takes no intelligence,
    2. The machine has true AI in the area of novel writing.

    • OR

      3. They fed it too many samples and it got lucky. Like the million monkeys typing away any random number generator might get it right, it’s just that the odds are long.

      • Lucky? OK. In our Touring test, let’s include 100 AI books and 100 human books.

        And, perhaps run all the human books through a spell checker so that’s not a give-away?

Comments are closed.