Copyright and AI: Navigating the Complex Intersection

The US Copyright Office is seeking public comment to better understand the complex intersection of generative AI systems and copyright laws. This comes as the office has received applications to register works containing AI-generated material, some of which name AI systems as authors.

How can the use of copyrighted materials to train AI models affect copyrightability of AI-generated content?

The use of copyrighted materials to train AI models can complicate the copyrightability of AI-generated content. Since AI models learn from existing copyrighted material, there is a risk that the AI-generated content may be considered derivative of the original copyrighted material. This raises questions about who holds the copyright for AI-generated content and whether AI systems can be considered authors. It also raises concerns about potential liability for copyright infringement if the AI-generated content violates existing copyrights.

Determining the level of human involvement necessary for copyright registration of AI artwork is a significant challenge. Copyright law typically requires a certain level of human creativity and authorship for a work to be eligible for copyright protection. However, with AI artwork, the line between human and machine creativity can be blurred. AI systems can generate artwork autonomously, without direct human input. This raises questions about whether AI-generated artwork can be considered a human-authored work or if it requires additional human involvement for copyright registration. Determining the appropriate level of human involvement in AI artwork presents a complex legal and philosophical challenge.

To address AI-generated images derived from copyrighted material, potential amendments to federal copyright law are being contemplated. These amendments aim to establish a clear and equitable framework that addresses the concerns raised by the generative AI industry. One possible amendment could involve expanding the scope of copyright protection to encompass AI-generated material itself, in addition to the human-authored aspects of a work. This would recognize the creative contribution of AI systems and provide legal protection for AI-generated content. Another potential amendment could involve creating a licensing system for the use of copyrighted material in training AI models, ensuring that creators of copyrighted material are appropriately compensated for their contributions to AI-generated works. These amendments would help navigate the complex intersection of AI and copyright law and provide guidance for the future of AI-generated content.

Full summary

The US Copyright Office has initiated a public comment period to delve into the intricate relationship between generative AI systems and copyright laws. This move follows the submission of applications for works that include AI-generated content, with AI systems even being named as authors in some cases.

The public comment period, commencing on August 30 and concluding on November 15, aims to explore several noteworthy areas. First and foremost, the use of copyrighted materials to train AI models is being closely examined, with questions arising about the copyrightability of AI-generated content and the liability associated with AI-generated content that infringes on existing copyrights.

Another crucial aspect being assessed is the impact of AI systems mimicking human voices or styles. Notable incidents, such as the registration and subsequent revocation of latent diffusion artwork and various copyright lawsuits against AI companies, have prompted further investigation into this matter.

The confluence of copyright law and AI technology poses ongoing challenges, exemplified by news organizations blocking OpenAI's web crawler to prevent unauthorized scraping of copyrighted data used to train AI models. Presently, US copyright law permits the copyrighting of AI artwork only as part of a larger, human-authored work, raising unresolved queries surrounding the level of human involvement necessary for copyright registration.

To gain a comprehensive understanding and gather diverse perspectives, the Copyright Office is actively encouraging public input. The office seeks to comprehend the legal ramifications of AI in the context of copyright, particularly surrounding AI-generated content. This includes carefully examining the threshold of human involvement required for copyright registration and evaluating the copyrightability of AI-assisted works on a case-by-case basis.

Previously, the Copyright Office had declined applications to register works originated by nature, animals, plants, or machines lacking human creative input. However, when it comes to works combining AI and human authorship, the office has provided some clarity. An AI consultant-authored comic book was granted copyright protection, but only as a whole and not for individual images. The office emphasized that works incorporating AI-generated material may still possess sufficient human authorship for a valid copyright claim if the human creator has selected or arranged the material in a creative manner.

As the Copyright Office continues its exploration of these issues, it plans to host public listening sessions throughout 2023 to gather further insights into technologies and their impact on the arts. Intellectual property lawyers representing AI artists commend the office's willingness to assess AI-assisted works for registration.

At present, copyright protection solely extends to the aspects of a work that are authored by humans and does not cover the AI-generated material itself. However, lawsuits against AI platforms for copyright infringement persist, alleging the unauthorized sale of derivative images based on copyrighted material.

Confronted with these challenges, the Copyright Office is contemplating amendments to federal copyright law to address AI-generated images derived from copyrighted material, aiming to establish a clear and equitable framework that addresses concerns raised by the generative AI industry.

The intersection of generative AI systems and copyright laws presents intricate legal and ethical dilemmas. The Copyright Office's public comment period provides a pivotal platform for individuals and organizations to express their viewpoints and shape future copyright decisions within the expanding domain of AI-generated content.