Within the rapidly evolving artificial intelligence (“AI”) legal landscape (as explored in Proskauer’s “The Age of AI” Webinar series), there is an expectation that Congress may come together to draft some form of AI-related legislation. The focus is on how generative AI (“GenAI”) in the last six months or so has already created new legal, societal, and ethical questions.
Intellectual property (“IP”) protection – and, in particular, copyright – has been a forefront issue. Given the boom in GenAI, some content owners and creators, have lately begun to feel that AI developers have been free riding by training GenAI datasets off a vast swath of web content (some of it copyrighted content) without authorization, license or reasonable royalty. Regardless of whether certain GenAI tools’ use of web-based training data and the tools’ output to users could be deemed infringement or not (such legal questions do not have simple answers), it is evident that the rollout of GenAI has already begun to affect the vocations of creative professionals and the value of IP for content owners, as AI-created works (or hybrid works of human/AI creation) are already competing with human-created works in the marketplace. In fact, one of the issues in the Writers Guild of America strike currently affecting Hollywood concerns provisions that would govern the use of AI on projects.
On May 17, 2023, the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet held a hearing on the interoperability of AI and copyright law. There, most of the testifying witnesses agreed that Congress should consider enacting careful regulation in this area that balances innovation and creators’ rights in the context of copyright. The transformative potential of AI across industries was acknowledged by all, but the overall view was that AI should be used as a tool for human creativity rather than a replacement. In his opening remarks, Subcommittee Chair, Representative Darrell Issa, stated that one of the purposes of the hearing was to “address properly the concerns surrounding the unauthorized use of copyrighted material, while also recognizing that the potential for generative AI can only be achieved with massive amounts of data, far more than is available outside of copyright.” The Ranking Member of the Subcommittee, Representative Henry Johnson, expressed an openness for finding middle ground solutions to balance IP rights with innovation but stated one of the quandaries voiced by many copyright holders as to GenAI training methods: “I am hard-pressed to understand how a system that rests almost entirely on the works of others, and can be commercialized or used to develop commercial products, owes nothing, not even notice, to the owners of the works it uses to power its system.”