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AI - Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence tools have been the focus of many recent media reports, whether because they are being used to generate essays, dissertations and other course assignments by students, to analyse data for research or to create entirely new works by individuals and organisations.

The main issues being cited in legal cases are:

Copyright because of:

  • the vast quantities of existing copyright work that is being sourced by scraping/mining electronic collections, and uploaded into the AI tool without permissions or licensing, in order for it to learn from and create the new work e.g. images, music, art works, literature, architecture etc.
  • the lack of acknowledgement of the works used to create the new works in many cases.
  • uncertainties around copyright ownership of the newly created work.

Other legal and ethical issues due to:

  • works created 'in the style of' a creator could infringe the moral rights of the original creator.
  • fake endorsements/advertising of products using image/video simulations of celebrities
  • GDPR infringement where personal data is included in the content sourced, uploaded and generated.

Using Copyright Content

As with any tool or device, the quality of the end result depends on the instructions it receives and what information it has to work with, so the more content that's available to the tool, the better the end results.

Under U.S. copyright law, fair use is a legal doctrine that promotes freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works for certain purposes. However, the onus is on the word 'fair' and we don't have a similar provision in UK law.

Although there is a legal exception S.29A in UK law, for computational text and data mining and analysis from lawfully accessed sources, there are limitations:

  • content that has been mined under this exception can only be used for non-commercial research.
  • Subscription based platforms can block extractions of large amounts of data if they feel it might destabilise the database.
  • the terms of AI tools require the user to own the copyright or have permission to upload the content onto their platform and
  • to grant permission for it to be retained and used indefinitely by the tool and it's users.
  • It's likely impossible for users to be able to acknowledge all the content and sources that the AI tool has used to be able to produce a result.

The ownership issue is particularly restrictive as it is highly unlikely the person uploading large quantities of content actually owns the copyright in the content they're uploading, and databases generally prohibit the use of large quantities of content to be extracted and uploaded onto another platform. As such, users of the AI tool also aren't authorised to grant any permissions to anyone else.

As referencing is a fundamental requirement of any academic work, the use of AI to create such a work would be problematic.

Referencing and Citation

AI  generated references must be authenticated before requesting copies from the library or citing them in your work. AI tools have been creating fake references which result in unnecessary work for the Inter- Library Loans team and can also result in academic misconduct proceedings if used in coursework assignments. You should always say where you have used AI to generate a piece of work for complete transparency.

See the announcement on Academic Integrity and Misconduct (7/2/2023):  https://unihub.mdx.ac.uk/student-life/announcements/2023/academic-integrity

Guidance on Referencing and avoiding Plagiarism is available in the: Referencing & Plagiarism Libguide

Who owns the copyright in AI generated work?

Copyright ownership of works generated by AI is a controversial area that courts worldwide are currently having to navigate.

In response to the 'Monkey Selfie' copyright ownership dispute, the United States Copyright Office published an opinion, included in the third edition of the office's Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices, clarifying that "only works created by a human can be copyrighted under United States law, which excludes photographs and artwork created by animals or by machines without human intervention" and that "Because copyright law is limited to 'original intellectual conceptions of the author', the [copyright] office will refuse to register a claim if it determines that a human being did not create the work."  This statement has since been confirmed in the patent registration denial of inventions and works created by Dr Thaler's AI generator DABUS and the Théâtre D'opéra Spatial image. This has resulted in all computer /machine generated works in the US being uncopyrighted and in the public domain.

UK law doesn't mention a human requirement, but does require an 'Author' to be a person. S.9 (3) CDPA 1988 also states that "In the case of a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work which is computer-generated, the author shall be taken to be the person by whom the arrangements necessary for the creation of the work are undertaken."  This could effectively be the creator of the machine/generator, the programmer and possibly the person who instructs the machine on what to create. Therefore copyright could possibly apply to AI generated works under UK law.

There is an argument as to the originality of the work produced if the machine has been trained on previously existing works, but as humans also take inspiration and learn from people, past works and past technology (i.e. by standing on the shoulders of giants), this is debateable and for courts to decide on a case by case basis.

Legal Actions

Legal cases that have recently been reported include:

More actions and complaints are summarised by Ben Lutkevich for TechTarget.com here: https://www.techtarget.com/whatis/feature/AI-lawsuits-explained-Whos-getting-sued

Future Legislation

The UK Government recently ran a consultation on their proposed plans for implementing a pro-innovation approach to AI regulation. Documents relating to the proposal and consultation are available here:https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/ai-regulation-a-pro-innovation-approach

For any further  information or advice, please contact  Kate Vasili at : k.vasili@mdx.ac.uk

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