“What if an author is a machine learning algorithm? Could a computer or a machine using AI be considered as an author, especially if the output is not predicted by the user or the programmer?” That’s a very interesting and the most debatable subject these days. Since Naruto and Slater’s case, over the past several years that has been a lot of debate about who and what can claim the copyright. The case was settled, so there was no definite ruling if there was a chance to introduce a new law that could have given the monkey the copyright. So, the question is if the monkey would have been protected by giving copyright then how would the AI systems be dealt with as they are able to produce novel output themselves. Currently, the AI systems are still guided by humans. For instance, Google’s Deep Dream is dependent on human input for choosing training images to create the neural network and to modify the image (Leetaru, 2017).
AI systems or robots realistically have no activity and self-awareness. So, if for them to operate or function there is a human guidance or support in the form of setting up the input parameters then the person responsible for doing so should be eligible for the copyright if that need arises. The main area to consider here is the intention or purpose. Looking at this rationally, there can be no creative work without an intent. Self-awareness is important and leads to an intention. There have been several discussions and warnings how AI might overtake humans one day but logically speaking it is still a long way off where an AI system would operate on its own with an intent (David, 2018).
In my opinion, we will have to wait and see in the future, there exists a totally autonomous AI machine. Leetaru (2017) states “We may have to wait just a while longer for fully autonomous AI systems that innovate and create completely independently of human oversight, the questions of copyright, ownership and control loom large”.
Apart from considering that the AI is self-sufficient to perform its operation, another factor to give a thorough consideration to before deciding if it can be copyright is the “purpose”. Some claim that the copyright protection would be beneficial for the public interest by in the forms of education, entertainment and other admirable public interest reasons. Google’s Deep Dream makes one think on these lines. But at the same time, the copyright protection of these AI machines could be only beneficial to the private companies who manage them and thus they can be used for commercial misuse in films, games and ads etc. So, a new rule for copyright protection should not tilt this balance (David, 2018).
David (2018) states “In my view, a self-aware, autonomous AI would be the prerequisite for its works to be protectable by copyright. At that time, such a revolution in technology would entail a much greater revolution in society, with the law, including copyright law, changing, as well.”
The new developments in the field of AI has made it clear that humans are not the only source of creativity or innovation. Hristov (2017) points out that the US Copyright is outdated as it does not mirror with the new advancements. This could be discouraging for the developers and the owners of the AI systems in the lack of the copyright protection and will restrict their readiness to allocate more resources for the future research and development in the field of AI. It might cause a significant delay in the progress of the technology and arts in the present. So, there is a need for this issue to be solved practically. If all the factors discussed are logically addressed, I do think for the progress of this field it is necessary to revise the law and authorship of the AI generated works should be given to the developers/owners. As Hristov (2017) states “This legal incentive would financially benefit those responsible for AI development, resulting in a significant boost in research and investment in the AI sector and the modernization of a rapidly aging U.S. Copyright Act.”
Davis, D. (2018) How AI and copyright would work. Available at: https://techcrunch.com/2018/01/09/how-ai-and-copyright-would-work/ (Accessed: 6 February 2018)
Hristov, K. (2017) ‘Artificial Intelligence and the copyright dilemma’, IDEA – The Journal of the Franklin Pierce Centre for the Intellectual Property, 57(3), pp:431-454.
Leetaru, K. (2017) Can An AI Algorithm Copyright What It Creates? Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/kalevleetaru/2017/08/02/can-an-ai-algorithm-copyright-what-it-creates/#622e9d2279c0 (Accessed: 6 February 2018)