Copyrighting with Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) has become something we use everyday in our lives whether that’s using an assistant like Amazon’s Alexa or navigation tools when we travel. As we navigate through our routines, AI silently operates in the background, shaping, streamlining, and enhancing our daily experiences. And with this increase of AI use, the bounds of what we can do have only grown. In a creative realm, the use of AI can give rise to new concerns of ownership, copyright, and ethical and legal considerations. With this new landscape of human ingenuity and machine generation, we’ll explore how copyright laws will transform our new digital frontier.

Copyright Laws

Copyright laws were put in place to protect authors on any scale to the ownership of their creations and ideas. The overview of congress’s power over intellectual property is: “[The Congress shall have Power . . .] To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” Copyright laws hinge on the principles of originality, fixation, and expression. In the digital age, where information flows seamlessly, the need to safeguard creative works becomes paramount.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office explains that copyright was foundational to the dissemination of knowledge to the people, and copyright was important to do so as thought by the framers of the constitution. As they explain, “more than 200 years later, the purpose of U.S. copyright law remains fundamentally the same: to provide the economic incentives for creativity that ultimately promote the public welfare.”

Understanding AI and Copyright

AI’s role in content creation involves using algorithms to analyze vast datasets, learn patterns, and generate new, often unique, pieces of work. Some examples that have grown in popularity on social media include using AI to have famous musicians perform/sing other artist’s works. However, the ability of AI to create content has raised questions about how copyright law, originally designed with human creators in mind, applies to works generated by machines.

Some of the biggest questions posed about copyright and AI is who owns the AI generated content. There’s debate if the content belongs to the user of the AI or the company that created the AI itself. In traditional copyright scenarios, the human creator is considered the author and holds the rights to the work. With AI-generated content, identifying a single human author becomes complex. The Congressional Research Service describes this comparison like that to a photographer and camera. If a photographer takes a photo with a camera, we know that it is the photographer that owns the photo and not the camera maker that assumes ownership. In that comparison, the AI user owns the content rather than the AI developer.

Additionally, there is heavy debate on AI content being original when AI is trained on vast amounts of data. Many debate that art is built on human ingenuity – so when a machine creates something, could it be considered art when it isn’t created by humans? Conversely, people on the other side argue that AI can enhance an artist’s innovation. OpenAI has acknowledged that their AI, ChatGPT, is trained on large sets of data publicly available, which includes copyrighted works. The concept of fair use, allowing limited use of copyrighted material without permission for purposes such as criticism, commentary, and news reporting, takes on new dimensions with AI-generated content. Ethical considerations come into play when determining the responsible use of AI in creative fields.

AI and Plagiarism in Education

While AI can be utilized as a great educational tool – like ChatGPT being used to translate texts or make them more accessible to the student – the student can also hurt their academic integrity. Many students have already taken advantage of the vast knowledge of ChatGPT to write papers for them rather than creating their own works. Alfonso Benito with International Center for Academic Integrity describes it best: “However, even if we ourselves ask the tool to generate answers or an essay, that text or answers are not our authorship” and therefore are not being honest if we attribute it to our authorship.

Educational settings often benefit from fair use exemptions within copyright laws, allowing the use of copyrighted material for purposes such as teaching, research, and scholarship. Educators should advise their students of these exemptions to ensure legitimate educational uses and not false authorship. Incorporating AI literacy into education involves not only understanding how AI tools work but also recognizing the importance of respecting copyright in the digital age. Students should be equipped with the knowledge and skills to navigate the digital landscape responsibly, including citing sources properly and avoiding plagiarism.

While Artificial Intelligence continues to grow within our digital age, so will the laws of copyright. In the realm of copyright, AI presents a dual opportunity—to protect the rights of creators and to cultivate an environment where innovation thrives. As we move into the future, the ongoing debate among educators, policymakers, and technologists will be crucial for all creators.

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