AI Brushstrokes Beyond the Canvas: Charting the Ownership and Authorship under Copyright Laws

AI Brushstrokes Beyond the Canvas: Charting the Ownership and Authorship under Copyright Laws

This piece has been authored by Megha Hurkat, GNLU

  1. Introduction

Throughout history, art has consistently served as a medium for the communication of ideas, emotions, and experiences that transcend linguistic and cultural boundaries. The ethical considerations pertaining to the production of art have been a perennial subject of contention throughout the course of human history. The incorporation of technology into the realm of art design has engendered novel opportunities for artists to conceive and actualize immersive and interactive experiences. Nevertheless, the collecting, analysis, utilization, and particularly the manifestation and preservation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) art installations give rise to noteworthy considerations. Furthermore, the use of artificial intelligence in the production of artistic creations has prompted questions about the artist’s participation, the genuineness of the artwork, and the ownership and authorship of its copyright. This blog delves at ownership and authorship conundrum surrounding the intersection of AI generated art with special reference to the recent US court judgment of Thaler v. Perlmutter, 2023. The blog will later analyze the position under Indian law as well.

  1. Authorship as “bedrock requirement” of Copyright

On August 21, 2023, a federal district court upheld the stance of the U.S. Copyright Office regarding the ineligibility of AI-generated artwork for copyright protection according to U.S. law. The court justified its decision by emphasizing the fundamental necessity of human authorship in copyright, thereby affirming the U.S. Copyright Office’s denial of registration for “A Recent Entrance to Paradise,” an artwork produced by the Creativity Machine, an AI system owned by the plaintiff, Stephen Thaler.

In a significant ruling, a United States court has issued a finding affirming that artworks produced by AI do not possess the necessary qualifications to be eligible for copyright protection. The court’s decision highlights the judiciary’s recognition that copyright is dependent on human creativity, hence prohibiting AI systems from being considered as copyright holders. The aforementioned ruling, which pertains to a critical juncture where law and technology collide, sets a precedent that prohibits granting AI-generated artwork the customary legal protections granted to intellectual property produced by humans.

The aforementioned court declaration demonstrates the dynamic nature of the legal framework as it confronts the complexities presented by advancing technology. The court’s reasoning provides a clear explanation of the fundamental principles of copyright law, highlighting the importance of human creative effort in determining copyright ownership. As a result, this decision initiates a more extensive discussion among legal professionals regarding the sufficiency of current intellectual property frameworks in effectively dealing with the complexities of AI-generated works. It also emphasizes the necessity for legislative and judicial development to keep pace with technological progress.

  1. AI art under Indian Copyright Law

In order for a work to be eligible for copyright protection, it must satisfy two essential requirements. Firstly, it is essential that the work in question be attributed to human authorship. Secondly, the work must demonstrate autonomy in its development and possess qualities of originality. The potential exists for the Copyright Office to deny registration for works created using AI tools due to a perceived lack of substantial creative contribution and human authorship required to establish a valid copyright claim. Therefore, the issue of the safeguarding of copyright for information created by AI has dual dimensions.

There are two primary considerations regarding the attribution of ownership and authorship to an AI: firstly, if an AI may be designated as the author, and secondly, whether the material created by an AI has enough creative contributions to satisfy the requirements of being a product of human labor.

Regarding the first criterion, it is noteworthy that Indian courts have refrained from providing a definitive legal stance on the matter of ownership pertaining to material created by AI. Consequently, this intricate legal matter has not yet undergone judicial scrutiny. Nevertheless, there exists a particular occurrence that garnered significant interest and instilled optimism among those aspiring to become AI registrants. An individual named Ankit Sahani, the proprietor of Raghav, an AI-based Painting Application, submitted two applications for copyright protection pertaining to the AI-generated artwork titled “Suryast.” The first application for copyright registration was submitted under the name of Raghav, however, it was promptly denied by the copyright registrar. The registration application was submitted in the name of Mr. Sahani, with Raghav listed as the co-author. Upon the registration of the second Suryast application, complaints were later filed by the Copyright Office, leading to their pursuit of cancellation of the registration. Due to the concurrent nature of the proceedings in the United States, the objections put forward by the Copyright Office, as well as the subsequent response to these objections, are maintained in a secret manner. The concerns were presumably made due to the fact that Indian copyright law specifically recognizes only human beings as eligible creators of works.

  1. Issues with giving artificial intelligence ownership of copyrights

The exponential progressions in technology have facilitated the development of AI to a degree where it has the ability to generate creative works without direct human involvement. Consequently, this phenomenon prompts inquiries on the attribution of authorship and copyright ownership for such creations. In these instances, two possibilities emerge:

  1. AI generated but human-guided artworks

In these instances, the substantial involvement of human creative contributions assumes a crucial role, hence establishing copyright ownership for the human contributors.

  1. AI-generated artworks without human guidance

The complexity around authorship arises when AI develops works autonomously, without direct involvement from humans. The act of assigning authorship to artificial intelligence requires a thorough examination of both legal and intellectual foundations.

The attribution of authorship to AI in the context of an AI-generated work is a complex matter that has significant implications. In the event that AI is bestowed with authorship rights in an AI-generated work, and if there is a case of copyright infringement involving said work or if the work itself infringes upon an already copyrighted work, a situation arises where the AI lacks the ability to assert its copyright against potential infringement, and likewise, the AI cannot be subject to legal action for potentially infringing upon an already copyrighted work. The reason for this is that artificial intelligence lacks the legal status of being a juristic or natural person, hence rendering it immune to legal actions. Therefore, prior to addressing the matter of granting authoring rights to AI, it is imperative for law to determine the legal standing of AI.

Furthermore, according to Indian legislation, the duration of protection for original literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works is calculated as a term of 60 years commencing from the year subsequent to the death of the author. If the AI is bestowed with authorship of such work, the underlying justification for the duration of protection under copyright law becomes irrelevant since AI has a continuous life.

  1. Conclusion and Suggestions

The confluence of copyright infringement with AI-generated artistic creations in India poses noteworthy legal complexities. As the progression of AI technology persists, it becomes imperative to establish a harmonious equilibrium between safeguarding the rights of copyright holders and nurturing the growth of innovation in the field of AI. The adoption of copyright laws, the acknowledgment of fair use within the realm of AI, and the establishment of comprehensive governance frameworks are crucial measures in effectively resolving the legal ramifications associated with AI and fostering its development and progress in India.

Despite the absence of legal recognition for AI, its contributions might potentially be recognised by an alternative criteria distinct from conventional copyright regulations. This approach may effectively fill the gaps in current law and principles while maintaining a high level of integrity. It is also essential for AI initiatives to conform to well established rules on the use and management of data. It is essential to include supervision and compliance procedures inside these regulations to guarantee the appropriate and ethical utilisation of copyrighted content throughout the process of AI training.

There is a need to reconsider and update intellectual property rules in order to correspond with the rapid progress and development of AI technologies. This entails acknowledging and resolving the distinct obstacles presented by AI-generated material, copyright ownership, and fair use within the context of the digital age. Moreover, it is imperative that AI corporations be required to designate compliance officers who are accountable for safeguarding copyright protection, overseeing audits, and performing evaluations. These officers would be responsible for ensuring that AI-generated material complies with copyright regulations and detecting any possible instances of infringement.

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