Artificial intelligence and copyright

Author:Andres Guadamuz
Position:Senior Lecturer in Intellectual Property Law, University of Sussex, United Kingdom
SUMMARY

The rise of the machines is here, but they do not come as conquerors, they come as creators.

 
FREE EXCERPT

Google has just started funding an artificial intelligence program that will write local news articles. In 2016, a group of museums and researchers in the Netherlands unveiled a portrait entitled The Next Rembrandt, a new artwork generated by a computer that had analyzed thousands of works by the 17th-century Dutch artist Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn. A short novel written by a Japanese computer program in 2016 reached the second round of a national literary prize. And the Google-owned artificial intelligence company Deep Mind has created software that can generate music by listening to recordings.

Other projects have seen computers write poems, edit photographs and even compose a musical.

Computers and the creative process

Robotic artists have been involved in various types of creative works for a long time. Since the 1970s computers have been producing crude works of art, and these efforts continue today. Most of these computer-generated works of art relied heavily on the creative input of the programmer; the machine was at most an instrument or a tool very much like a brush or canvas. But today, we are in the throes of a technological revolution that may require us to rethink the interaction between computers and the creative process. That revolution is underpinned by the rapid development of machine learning software, a subset of artificial intelligence that produces autonomous systems that are capable of learning without being specifically programmed by a human.

A computer program developed for machine learning purposes has a built-in algorithm that allows it to learn from data input, and to evolve and make future decisions that may be either directed or independent. When applied to art, music and literary works, machine learning algorithms are actually learning from input provided by programmers. They learn from these data to generate a new piece of work, making independent decisions throughout the process to determine what the new work looks like. An important feature for this type of artificial intelligence is that while programmers can set parameters, the work is actually generated by the computer program itself – referred to as a neural network – in a process akin to the thought processes of humans.

Implications for copyright law

Creating works using artificial intelligence could have very important implications for copyright law. Traditionally, the ownership of copyright in computer-generated works was not in question because...

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