What happens when AI creates IP?

Artificial Intelligence is becoming a greater part of our lives. So far, it’s uses have been fairly pedestrian – things like artificial assistants or factory workers. But what happens when AI begins to create? Who – or perhaps what – will own the copyright to their works?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming more and more prevalent in today's society. From basic applications like Siri on your iPhone to the algorithm that recommends new content on Youtube and Netflix, AI technology is utilised to fulfil a number of different tasks.

While most AIs so far have been used as tools of production, we are beginning to see examples that can create music, art or photographs themselves. What could this mean for our intellectual property laws?

AI that can create

While computers have been used more or less since their inception as tools of artistic creation (think Photoshop or music creation software), only recently have they been capable of making creative decisions without the explicit instruction of a human. 

For example, the 2009 record "From Darkness Light" was composed by Emily Howell. The interesting thing is, Emily Howell is not a human being – it is a computer program. Take a listen to one of its pieces, "1. Prelude".

The mastermind behind the program, David Cope, is a music professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He told the Daily Telegraph, "I put my skills into creating a unique composer that created contemporary classical music that would be interesting and grab people's attention, but was in nobody's style except that particular kind of software."

Another example is a new product from Google, called the Clip. A small camera that you can (as the name suggests) clip onto your person, Google Clip is like any other camera, except for one crucial difference – the images it takes are not by the owner pressing a shutter button. Instead, software inside the camera decides when an interesting thing is happening (like seeing a face, for example) and records images at those moments. The idea is like having a robot photographer – instead of thinking about taking photos, you can be in the moment and let the clip do the work.

When a robot can create a killer dance tune, who will own the copyright?When a robot can create a killer dance tune, who will own the copyright?

Who owns the copyright for AI's creations?

Both of these examples present something of a puzzle to Australian law. As it currently stands, there are no specific provisions for AI created works. The Copyright Act states that in the case of a photo, for example, the work is owned by the author, who is the person that took the photo. The key word in that sentence is 'person' – which is defined in the Acts Interpretation Act as an individual, body politic or body corporate, but not a computer program or machine.

So as it stands, the answer to who owns the copyright of AI created works is no one. This is the conclusion the Australian Federal Court came to when it ruled computer generated information sheets didn't have any copyright protection.

Whatever the future of copyright law holds, you can count on Alder IP being there to guide you every step of the way. If you're after further IP related advice, contact us today.