Can you File Copyright for an Artificial Intelligence Powered Creation?

As Artificial Intelligence is making its grand entry into our human-dominated world, questions are arising around ownership and copyright laws.

Can you File Copyright for an Artificial Intelligence Powered Creation?

From self-driving cars to exchange-traded funds and healthcare, AI is making its grand entry in every realm of the human life. A few decades ago this might have sounded straight out of an Isaac Asimov novel.

Artificial Intelligence is no more something we talk about that’s supposed to come in the future; it’s already here. Though there are many labor intensive, repetitive, monotonous and jobs of similar patterns that diminished with the advent of automation, artificial intelligence is taking things to a whole new level.

Programs can now learn things on their own, albeit fed with a large amount of data. It can also create new things by studying, analyzing and processing the enormous data sets. A lot of new creations are now active in various fields and are helpful for the human race. Not only in the field of science but there are new and original works that AI is creating in the field of arts.

These new creations pose a set of questions that have never come up before; who or what should the credit of ownership of the new entity go to? Is it the program, the programmer or the developer?

According to most copyright litigation the world over, a copyright is entitled to a natural or legal person. Up until now any program or tool used for creating an original work was just that… a tool. But the way things are progressing this might not be the case anymore.

In 2010 an AI system developed by David Cope created a musical composition by reading millions of pieces of music and inserting bits of random pieces.  It was named Emily Howell CD and was a breakthrough in the musical world.

Another example is Aaron, an AI robot painter and a guest scholar at Stanford University AI lab. Many of Aaron’s creations adorn the walls of major art galleries all over the world.

Most countries are currently debating on whether to offer copyright protection to the creators or companies involved in creating AI-powered original works. As no one has dealt with such issues to date the task at hand is quite complicated.

The EU Parliament has broken ground while taking the first step in February 2017, towards voting for enacting Robot laws. Though it has not been approved by the EU commission yet, it certainly created a lot of buzz.

According to the UK copyright and design act of 1988, a computer-generated work of art defines it as ‘generated by computer in circumstances such that there is no human author of the work.’ It’s pretty obvious they weren’t thinking of AI at that point in time.

Going by copyright basics, the UK, Ireland and New Zealand a “computer generated” work can be copyrighted, although in Australia, Germany, and Spain only humans are offered copyright protection. The world is still divided and catching up with the concept.

In the United States, Copyright Office has a Compendium, titled “The Human Authorship Requirement,” which is part states “The copyright law only protects ‘the fruits of intellectual labor’ that ‘are founded in the creative powers of the mind.’ … Because copyright law is limited to ‘original intellectual conceptions of the author,’ the Office will refuse to register a claim if it determines that a human being did not create the work.”

That effectively means a non-human entity cannot be offered copyright protection. There’s also a section which sites examples of “works that lack human authorship.” It specifically states works created by machines or mechanical systems without the creative input of humans will not be registered as a copyright. Even for that matter works produced by nature, animals or plants are not eligible for copyrights.

In the current scheme of things, it’s pretty clear that anything that doesn’t have a human element would not get copyright protection in the US. But the rate at which AI-powered creations are blending in with the human world this debate doesn’t seem like it’s going to die down. As humans and AI-powered systems learn to co-exist there’s bound to be a change in the copyright laws in the times to come.

The attorneys at Paul & Paul are skilled intellectual property litigators and prosecutors and welcome an opportunity to hear your case. If you’ve thought or created something that’s unique, please contact one of our copyright attorneys at 866-975-7231 right now, before an AI-powered machine beats you to it.


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