USPTO asks for public comment regarding the impact AI should have on copyright law


In brief: As time goes on and technology continues to advance, the world has changed in many ways. One such change is the rise of artificial intelligence; a form of technology that has wide-reaching implications across a variety of industries and fields. To at least partially address these implications, the United States Patent and Trademark Office is asking for public feedback on the role AI should have in copyright, IP, and trademark law.

This request for feedback comes in the form of 13 questions, each of which aims to address a specific part of copyright or trademark law that AI could impact. For example, the USPTO asks whether or not current laws for “assigning liability” in a copyright infringement case adequately cover situations in which an AI might be the offender. If a work is infringed upon through an AI-run process, should the owner be held fully accountable?

The vast majority of the questions are similar in nature, and largely focus on how much existing copyright or trademark law should be changed to accommodate the rise of AI. However, the USPTO did raise a couple of interesting points.

For starters, what should happen if an AI does create a fully-original work on its own? What if that work was created after little more than the press of a button from the AI’s “owner”? In that scenario, should the work be considered copyrightable? If not, how much manual involvement should be required on the part of an AI’s developer?

Further, should a work be copyrightable if it was created by an AI that was fed copyrighted material during its training, even if the end result is unique? If so, is that result covered under existing fair use doctrines?

In one especially odd question, the USPTO asks if an AI’s owner should have the copyright to any work it creates. “Should an entity or entities other than a natural person, or company to which a natural person assigns a copyrighted work, be able to own the copyright on the AI work?” the question reads. “For example: Should a company who trains the artificial intelligence process that creates the work be able to be an owner?”

As we said, these questions are certainly interesting, and they’re tough to answer. Existing copyright and trademark law may not necessarily cover all of them, and even in the cases where current law does provide a partial answer, there may still be room for nuance.

For a full list of the questions, or for the USPTO’s contact information (should you wish to attempt to answer any of the queries), you can take a look at the Office’s relevant Federal Register document right here.

Image credit: Iqvis


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