Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Copyright

AI technologies and generative AI models enabling the creation of original content by processing text, images, sound and other data have been a hot topic of this year. Should the outputs generated by AI be copyrighted work, if so who owns the rights, and copyright infringement by use of AI have been widely discussed.

The general rule appears to be that an AI cannot have rights to the works it generates and that only human creativity can enjoy copyright protection. In the “Zarya of the Dawn” decision[1] of United States Copyright Office, a comic book featuring AI-generated cartoons was granted copyright protection only in terms of the text and arrangement of the images created by the author but the drawings generated directly by AI are excluded from the scope of registration. On the other hand, in the “Li v. Liu” decision the Chinese Court, on November 27, 2023 determined that the plaintiff holds copyright to the images that it created by using AI.[2] The Court assessed that the parameters’ set and the image selection were made by a human, and output was generated according to the human intellectual input, reflecting its personalized expression.

Moreover, the infringement of others’ copyrights by AI is an issue that both AI providers, users[3] and law-makers act and discuss with particular caution.

Indeed, this matter holds significant importance on the agenda of the European Parliament. AI Act proposed by the European Commission in 2021, was transmitted to the European Parliament by the relevant committee along with several proposed amendments and the Parliament approved its negotiating mandate on June 14, 2023.[4] Under the relevant proposals, providers of generative AI are required to register these AI models with their descriptions and the data sources used in their development, in a new public database. They are also obligated to flag where the content has been generated by AI, prevent the creation of content that violates Union rules, and publish a sufficient detailed summary of their training data subject to copyright. On December 08, 2023, Parliament and Council negotiators reached a provisional agreement on the final version of the AI Act.

In the past year, a group of authors has filed class actions against companies, including OpenAI and Meta, claiming that their rights have been violated by the unauthorized use of their works as training data and/or as outputs by ChapGPT and LLaMA.[5] The NewYork Times also filed a lawsuit against OpenAI and Microsoft for copyright infringement, alleging that its content was provided with users through ChatGPT and Copilot’s outputs without authorization.[6] The attitude of the courts in such cases will be decisive for the development of the relevant field. On the other hand, companies like Google and Microsoft have announced that they will assume legal responsibility/shoulder legal costs of their users in copyright disputes stemming from the use of their AI systems, if the user has acted in accordance with the terms of use.

While legal regulations and/or judicial decisions effectively clarifying this matters are yet to be encountered in Türkiye, it is inevitable that there will be developments in this filed considering the widespread use of AI. 

[1] https://www.copyright.gov/docs/zarya-of-the-dawn.pdf
[2] https://aibusiness.com/nlp/chinese-court-s-landmark-ruling-ai-images-can-be-copyrighted
[3] https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2023/jun/23/two-us-lawyers-fined-submitting-fake-court-citations-chatgpt
[4] https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A52022PC0496;
[5] https://www.theverge.com/2023/7/9/23788741/sarah-silverman-openai-meta-chatgpt-llama-copyright-infringement-chatbots-artificial-intelligence-ai  https://www.searchenginejournal.com/chatgpt-creator-faces-multiple-lawsuits-over-copyright-privacy-violations/490686/#close
[6] https://www.nytimes.com/2023/12/27/business/media/new-york-times-open-ai-microsoft-lawsuit.html  ve https://nytco-assets.nytimes.com/2023/12/NYT_Complaint_Dec2023.pdf

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