Can Machines Be Authors? Untangling Copyright and AI

Can Machines Be Authors? Untangling Copyright and AI

As more content is created via AI, a question has emerged: Is AI copyrighted material? This is an important discussion to have, as AI has been trained on content written by humans without their permission. The outcome of this question will affect businesses who use AI all across the globe. 

In this blog, we will examine whether AI can actually commit copyright infringement, whether businesses should stop using it altogether until this is resolved, and the laws around copyright and how that applies to AI. 

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The Rise of AI in Content Creation

First, it’s important to understand what AI content creation actually is. AI can create lots of different content, from blog posts to images or even music. An SEO marketing agency might use AI content creation to fill out pages and blog posts for a site with optimized keywords. It’s a quick and easy way to create content, but it raises a lot of questions about copyright. This is because AI is trained by gathering information from other websites, which is all original content created by others. The AI is essentially stealing that information to create its own version. The question of whether this is copyright infringement, though, is very nuanced. After all, isn’t this how humans learn? By seeking information from other sources?

The Legal Labyrinth of AI Authorship

Copyright laws were intended to protect creators from other human creators. The Copyright Act prevents “unauthorized copying of work of authorship.” Currently only humans are protected by this law. But it creates a strange grey area: If content is created by AI and then edited by a human, can it fall under copyright law? Is the AI the author or is the human using the AI the author? Answers to these questions will dramatically change the legal recourse that companies can take. 

Answering this conundrum of whether AI is an author who can copy work and, therefore, infringe on copyright will help us decide how we can use AI moving forward. Most jurisdictions currently state that AI is not an author and cannot legally own copyright because it’s human creativity that creates the criteria for eligibility for copyright. Therefore, the human who used the AI tool or programmed it is the author. But the many court cases currently happening will ultimately be the deciding factor. 

AI Copyright: Some Case Studies

Some businesses are fighting back against AI-generated content as they feel it was trained on their human content and took advantage of it. Here are some examples:

  • Getty Images vs. Stability AI (2023): Getty Images is accusing Stability AI of scraping its website images to gather all sorts of information to help Stability AI’s image generator, called Stable Diffusion, make artistic images. They allege this is infringing on Getty’s copyright by using these images without their permission. This raises the question: does training AI on copyrighted material fall under fair use? We’re yet to see the outcome. 
  • Thomson Reuters vs. ROSS Intelligence (2020): ROSS is an AI legal research tool. Thomson Reuters sued them for training their AI on its copyrighted legal material. The issue will boil down to fair use since the AI model is not made to simply copy but learn from the content. The answer to this should come sometime in May 2024. 
  • New York Times v. Artificial Creativity LLC (2023): The New York Times has sued an AI company called Artificial Creativity because it used its articles to train its own system to create similar articles. The Times is arguing that this is copyright infringement, but Artificial Creativity is claiming fair use. This case is similar to Thomson Reuters vs ROSS intelligence and will pave the way for how AI can be trained using information that already exists online. 
  • Artists vs. AI Image Generators (2023): A group of artists got together to sue Midjourney, Stable Diffusion, and DreamUp because they believe their artwork was used to train these AI models. The artists use their own style, which they have honed for years, to sell unique art, which begs the question, is it legal for AI to simply copy that and sell its own version?

Unfortunately, these are just a couple of examples, but the questions that these cases will really ask are:

  • Is it fair use to train an AI on copyrighted data?
  • Who owns the copyright on AI generated material?
  • How can we protect creators from AI while encouraging innovation?

Practical Tips for Businesses Using AI to Avoid Copyright Infringement 

Businesses that need content creation to stay afloat, perhaps for blogs, product descriptions, selling art, or creating books are in a difficult position. Using AI can make content creation much easier and help them find an audience who is looking for what they sell. But trying to make sure content doesn’t infringe on copyright is currently a stab in the dark. It’s important to use caution when using AI generated content and ensure there is a human behind it making tweaks, researching, staying on top of laws and regulations, and making sure the content is accurate and good quality. Here are some practical tips:

  • Transparency is Key: Make sure that your audience is aware of your use of AI to build trust. 
  • Understand Copyright Laws: Stay on top of copyright laws when it comes to the AI you are using and how you are using it. 
  • Human Oversight: Never use AI without a human who checks over the content it generates. This will help with quality control and copyright issues in case the AI copies work exactly. 
  • Intellectual Property Rights: Make sure your company actually owns the content that AI is generating. The AI tool may have in their terms and conditions that they own anything their AI creates. 
  • Ethical Guidelines: Be ethical. Create guidelines that protect everyone involved to avoid copyrighting, plagiarism, your brand’s values, and minorities.  

AI and Authorship

AI will probably be the future for all sorts of content generation. It’s quick, streamlined, and serves as a great assistant for specialists in content creation. The challenge is whether AI is ethical. Copyright is just one way that AI can infringe on ethics. In the future, we will probably come across other questions, such as copyright issues, that will play out in court. Until these cases are resolved we won’t really know whether AI is actually infringing on copyright or not. But the answer to these questions will completely change how AI is trained and how we create content for websites forever. 

If you need assistance with custom content that ranks and gets clicks, improves your brand’s exposure online, increases quality traffic to your site, and converts visitors into customers, contact ClickGiant today. We are a leading digital marketing agency serving clients nationwide. 

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