Can UK copyright legislation accommodate Artificial Intelligence?

Copyright protection in the UK is governed by the Copyright Design and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA) and requires an author’s work to be fixated in some form as well as be original. However, what happens when the author in question is AI? The current legislation does not explicitly exclude AI as an author, however, it definitely does not accommodate for it either, as it refers to an author as a “person”.

AI is a concept with many acceptable definitions. It has been described by authors as the thinking machine of our century, however, the words ‘artificial’ and ‘intelligence’ were first coined by professor John McCarthy after a two-month study to assess the capability of such machinery to improve themselves and solve problems. With the latter in mind, it is also widely accepted that AI is able to learn from its own mistakes and be coded in a way to never repeat them again, in contrast to a human, where human error can sometimes be inevitable. Therefore, when such powerful and intelligent machinery can produce a written work, compose a song or create a piece of art, it truly sets the question as to why current UK legislation does not accommodate for AI to be listed as an author of its works. 

This can certainly be contrasted with other jurisdictions’ interpretations of copyright law and AI. Most countries do not have sole laws dedicated to AI itself, however, their interpretation of what constitutes a valid author varies. For example, US law completely excludes the possibility of AI authorship. Contrastingly Saudi Arabia was the first country to provide an AI robot with citizenship rights, back in 2017. It is unclear if that extended to copyright protection rights of the robot named Sophia, however, it certainly demonstrates an enormous leap into recognising AI’s work and providing them with rights.

UK legislation in the 21st Century can be deemed outdated due to its inability to keep up with modern technological advances. Yet still, granting AI with rights, even if it were to be only listed as an author of its works can also present a great danger to society and is perhaps one of the reasons why the CDPA has not been adapted to fit AI. An example of potentially threatening AI could be that of ‘deepfakes’, a term that defines the technology itself and also the outcome of the videos it produces. Deepfakes constitute videos with falsified images or information, usually of a celebrity or politician, created with the sole purpose of humiliation or to spread false information. An example is a deepfake of former president Barack Obama ironically created to warn of the dangers of falsified information. 

The relationship between copyright and AI protection is certainly a very broad topic with many arguments and possibilities. In this article, we have only covered a small aspect of this area and we will be sure to cover more soon, on our Reading Room. With ever-growing research, developments, and further innovations by AI, it is possible that we could witness our legislation beginning to adapt in order to accommodate AI-produced works. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for further debates on this matter, on our website.

In the meantime, if you have any queries regarding copyright protection, copyright infringement or any other intellectual property matter, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our expert team at Lawdit today.

Tel: 023 8023 5979


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