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Can AI-produced works qualify as ‘works of authorship?


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Can an AI (or a non-human) be the ‘author’ of a piece of music –or other art / content – that it has created? It’s a question that has been bubbling for a while now, from selfie-snapping monkeys to the output from the growing number of AI-generated music startups. And often, certainly from the entities that deal with authorship (from copyright-registration bodies to collecting societies) the answer has been ‘nope’ – meaning that the authors of AI-created works have often ended up being the developers of the AI itself.

Now the US Patent and Trademark Office is launching a consultation on whether changes are needed. You can read its request for comments here – as reported on by TorrentFreak – with some of the key questions it wants people to answer.

“Should a work produced by an AI algorithm or process, without the involvement of a natural person contributing expression to the resulting work, qualify as a work of authorship protectable under U.S. copyright law? Why or why not?” being the first. “Assuming involvement by a natural person is or should be required, what kind of involvement would or should be sufficient so that the work qualifies for copyright protection? For example, should it be sufficient if a person (i) designed the AI algorithm or process that created the work; (ii) contributed to the design of the algorithm or process; (iii) chose data used by the algorithm for training or otherwise; (iv) caused the AI algorithm or process to be used to yield the work; or (v) engaged in some specific combination of the foregoing activities?” being the second.

From AI-music startups to collecting societies and rightsholders, music people should be getting involved in this consultation: these issues will be important in the industry’s future.

Stuart Dredge

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