With the development of the artificial intelligence, more and more work is completed without human intervention. But who, if anyone, should own copyrights of that work?

Since ancient times, people have been trying to mechanise the process of human thought. Artificial Intelligence has evolved from simple machines, like water clocks, to generating new artwork, like the portrait ‘The New Rembrandt’. AI can write short novels, or create music by listening to recordings (like the Google-owned AI company, Deep Mind). But, the further the technology develops, the more legal complications arise, especially in relation to copyrights.When AI system started evolving, the programmer’s input was much greater than it is today. Now, programmers merely set the parameters that enable the machines to generate work by themselves. So, whose work is it?

The current legal picture is complicated.

There are only few countries, including the UK, where copyrights in relation to computer-generated work are recognisable (under s.9(3) of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Acts). The Act states: ‘In the case of a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work which is computer-generated, the author shall be taken to be the person by whom the arrangements necessary for the creation of the work are undertaken.’ But, many countries do not recognise non-human work – so it can’t be protected by copyrights.

In the United States, the Copyright Office has declared that only work created by a human being will be recognised. In an Australian court, work generated with the intervention of a computer was denied copyright protection. The Court of Justice of the European Union recently declared (in the case of Infopag), that work must be in accordance with the ‘author’s own intellectual creation’ – which requires a human being to secure a copyright.

 Artificial intelligence systems are likely to become even more complex. They’re being used more and more commonly, and they’ll need more copyright protection. Without copyright, work generated by AI systems could be used by anyone, anywhere, and without any payment.

For more information, please contact Nick Lewis.

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