Could AI Robots Be Coming to Steal Your Copyrights?

July 13, 2023

By Julie C. Hancock

The use of copyright protection provides creatives with a pathway to control ownership, the use of works they’ve dedicated significant time and effort to, and their own income. Recent advancements in Artificial Intelligence create new concerns for creatives about whether or not society will continue to need and rely on them, however.

It's important to note that the evolving landscape of AI introduces new challenges and complexities for copyright law. As AI technologies advance, issues such as authorship attribution and ownership may become more complex. However, copyright protection still offers valuable benefits to creators, and it remains an important framework for protecting and asserting your rights as a copyright creator in the world of AI.

That last paragraph sounds good and all, but it actually came straight from OpenAI’s ChatGPT. We asked if it’s worth seeking copyright protection in a world increasingly reliant on AI. These programs are undoubtedly impressive, but are they capable of truly replacing human creativity?

This portion of a much longer, muddled answer straight from an AI program provides insights into how these programs trained on human data actually “think” about copyright law.

So, what does this mean for you if you hold or are pursuing copyright protection?

Your Copyrights are Being Fed Into and Spit Out of AI Models

These programs rely on heavy amounts of data and human input. The output has to come from somewhere, right? This reality already led to a concerning trend – artist signatures are being seen (often obscured) in AI-produced images.

Your hard work is already being shoved down the AI tube even if executives with these companies claim their programs do not refer back to the input they’ve been trained on. The signatures are a clear indication of this, but we have yet to see if an artist could pursue litigation against a company whose program generates an image featuring their signature.

While artists and creatives may be concerned about signatures and other elements of their work appearing in AI-generated art, the key question is and will likely always be the starting point, “does the thing being copied hold sufficient original authorship to be protected under copyright?”  In the case of a signature, generally, it does not. Other aspects of the copyright analysis will likely fit as well such as substantial similarity and independent creation (ie., access to the original work).  These are educated guesses based on existing copyright law. 

We are keeping a close eye on this because we firmly advocate for artists and creatives and their right to generate original works that are not diluted or otherwise infringed upon by computer generated art. 

Empowering Human Authorship

We’ll touch on this briefly because we just did an entire article on federal support for human authorship. Concerns about AI programs mass-producing content and leaving little room for human creativity have been alleviated for the time being.

Ultimately, copyright law looks at AI programs as a tool for human creativity as opposed to a means to create in and of themselves. A pen or pencil cannot pursue copyright on a piece of art just the same way ChatGPT cannot copyright a story written based on a human prompt.

Using AI as a Creator to Enhance Your Work

Human authorship does not mean every single aspect of a work must be human-generated. AI as a tool presents new and unique possibilities for creatives to enhance their own work. This could mean using AI for draft work or even generating an image from AI and putting your own creative spin on it.

According to guidance from earlier this year, as long as there is a heavy human contribution to a piece of work, it becomes copyright eligible. 

Pro Tip: If you delve into the world of ChatGPT for content creation, become friends with a plagiarism checker as well before posting, blogging, or otherwise sharing widely. 

At Your Virtual Advocate, we support innovation and finding new ways to inspire people with your work and are proud to support you in your efforts to secure copyright protection for the work you put in.

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