Artificial Intelligence and Copyright


Artificial intelligence (“AI”) is defined as “the ability of a digital computer or computer-controlled robot to perform tasks commonly associated with intelligent beings.” With the advancement of technology, AI systems have learned to create music and art and, furthermore, today, AI can write poems, novels, stories, and legal articles. As a result of these developments, discussions have begun regarding AI-created works of art, and the notion of ownership and enforcement within the context of copyright law.

In modern society, scholars ask whether AI-created work is copyrightable, and whether AI can be regarded as the owner of a copyright. One of the most discussed topics concerns the language of AI’s and copyright. In the United Kingdom, scholars are trying to adopt the phrase “AI-assisted work,” rather than “AI-created work.” With this, English scholars are trying to establish that AI, alone, cannot create a copyrightable work but, rather, can only assist with the process of creation.

Taking this one step further, if the AI is considered as the author of a work of art, the doctrine examines the problems that the courts might face given the current legal framework of copyright law. For example, the issue of accountability has become a frequently raised question in the event of infringement by AI systems because, in the case of an infringement, what benefits can copyright holders derive from suing an AI system; who would be the infringing party in this scenario, since the plaintiff probably would not receive any compensation from the AI, considering the fact that the AI does not have any assets that could neutralize the effect of the violation. Most importantly, what form of deterrence might laws have on AI? Moreover, the enforcement of copyright law by AI might be problematic, as well, as  the present rules do not answer how, and in what way, an AI system can enforce a copyright, and who might act on behalf of the AI, and how the legal representative may be appointed.

Currently, even though case law on this subject is immature as to reaching conclusions, it is important to mention the developments. In the United States and Australia, judges have not recognized AI as the creator, and have decided to afford protection only to the works created by humans. While on the other side of the world, a Chinese Court has decided that neither the software developer, nor the user, is the author, and after analysing whether software may be regarded as the owner of the work in question, the Court ruled that the work is not subject to copyright; however, considering the composition of the work, and the input of the software developer and the user, some sort of protection should be afforded. Currently, a similar issue is being assessed by a Canadian Court. Nevertheless, considering the lack of legal framework surrounding AI-created works, it is evident that the courts are constrained by the current rules that do not provide enough space for ground-breaking judgments, nor for interpretations.

Until the copyright rules are modernized, some scholars suggest using work-made-for-hire rules to overcome the challenges of ownership, enforcement, or accountability regarding AI-created work within the context of copyright law. While we have seen no Turkish case law concerning AI-created work and copyright, this subject has become ubiquitous amongst Turkish scholars. There are many articles discussing whether AI should be regarded as the author of a work of art, and what are the benefits and problems associated with it. At the same time, some Turkish scholars study the subject from another perspective, and suggest the use of work-made-for-hire rules. Even though, currently, the case law and the doctrine cannot clarify the legal uncertainty surrounding AI-created works within the context of copyright law, considering the constant technological advancements in the field of AI, we believe that this topic will continue to be a point of discussion in the upcoming years.

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