Artificial Intelligence & Copyright – Who is the author?

Artificial Intelligence & Copyright – Who is the author?

Several countries around that world have created artificial intelligence capable of creating works of art.  Whether the creation is a painting, music or a novel, the artificial intelligence (AI) is taught to analyze pre-existing works in the same genre of artistic expression in order to create an original work. So who owns the copyrights to these works?

As of now, the copyright act only extends to legal persons, that is, natural persons and corporate entities, and therefore, the AI cannot own the copyright. So the question becomes, did the AI create the art or did the person who created the AI in turn create the art?

This issue is similar to that in the “Monkey Selfie” case. While photographer David Slater was taking pictures of Celebes Crested Macaques, one of the monkeys grabbed a camera remote and took several “selfies.”  Intellectual Property Attorney’s should take note that this case was hotly debated as it raised the issue of whether or not a creator of a copyright could be non-human. Ultimately it was decided that non-humans could not obtain a copyright.

Unlike the monkeys, here the AI is created by humans. Someone had to write the code that instructs the AI on what to do and how to do it. Some say that the creators of the AI should own the copyrights to any works created by them. However, they might run into issues of control. In the Monkey Selfie case, it was decided that the photographer did not have enough control over the creation of the work. The Monkey took the camera remote, posed himself, and took his own pictures. Other than setting up cameras near the monkeys, the photographer did very little to facilitate the creation of the pictures.

Here, the issue arises when we create AI that can learn. It is at this point that the issue of control resurfaces because the human is no longer in control over every action and decision the AI makes. When the AI has the ability to think and act freely, it will become more difficult for the human creator to take credit for the AI’s work.

So what happens if no one can claim copyright protection in the AI created works?

Most likely the works would be considered fair use as they are in the public domain and anyone could use, replicate and sell the works without obtaining permission and without having to pay royalties. This not ideal for the AI creators and their companies since a great deal of time and money goes into creating AI.   However, if companies are unable profit off of art created by their robots, we may see limited continuation of this type of technology.

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