There is no question that laws and ethics are having a difficult time keeping up with technology. Some of the most intriguing arguments that arise from the explosion of technological advances include those questions involving copyright law. With the advent of artificial intelligence, the world is seeing works of art seemingly created by computers. Some in New York are wondering who, exactly, owns the rights to those works of art.
Several years ago, a photographer in another state claimed the rights to a photograph allegedly taken by the man’s macaque monkey. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals insisted that the rights and subsequent royalties of the monkey’s selfie belonged to the animal, but the photographer argued that he set up the shot; therefore, the images belonged to him. While the court agreed that copyright protection belongs to humans, the case is still under appeal.
A similar argument exists where AI is concerned. When an AI recently created an original work in the style of Dutch master Rembrandt, legal analysts asked if the AI should then receive copyright protection for that piece of art. Most scholars note that, while the law does not expressly place such limits, the U.S. Copyright Office has historically rejected copyrights requested for works by nonhuman authors.
Since the purpose of a copyright is to prevent someone else from benefiting from an artist’s work, some legal experts do worry that AI will eventually be able to claim copyrights for their accomplishments. It is humans who create the AI technology, so perhaps those are the ones who should benefit from copyright protection, at least in the eyes of some experts of copyright law. For those in New York with questions about the ownership and protection of their works, a copyright lawyer is often the best resource for answers and ongoing guidance.
Source: qz.com, “If an AI creates a work of art, who owns the rights to it?“, Robert Hart Obsession Machines, Aug. 15, 2017