AI and Copyrights: Getty Images Suit Brings Up Interesting Challenges to Current Copyright LawFebruary 9, 2023

AI continues to be in the spotlight. In recent years, the development of artificial intelligence (AI) has increased rapidly and is affecting various industries, including the creative arts. As AI continues to change the way we create and consume content, it is important to consider the impact it has on copyrights.

Copyrights are exclusive legal rights granted to creators of original works, such as music, literature, and artwork, to control the use and distribution of their works. In the digital age, copyrights have become increasingly important for protecting the rights of creators and ensuring that they are properly compensated for their works. However, AI’s ability to generate new works based on existing content raises important questions about copyrights and the role they play in protecting the rights of creators.

One of the biggest challenges with AI and copyrights is determining who owns the rights to the works generated by AI. In most cases, it is not clear whether the original creator, the AI developer, or the user of the AI has the right to control and monetize the work. This can lead to disputes and uncertainty in the creative industries, potentially stifling innovation.

Another challenge is ensuring that AI-generated works are properly compensated. Traditional methods of copyright enforcement, such as licensing and royalty payments, may not be effective for AI-generated works. For example, it may be difficult to track who is using the work and to ensure that they are paying the appropriate fees. This could result in lost income for creators and a reduction in incentives for innovation. However, some argue that AI can also provide new opportunities for creators and the creative industries. For example, AI can be used to create new works that would not have been possible without the technology. It can also be used to make existing works more accessible, such as through the creation of new translations or adaptations.

Recently, Stability AI Inc. has been sued by well known stock photograph provider Getty Images. Stability AI, via an AI model called “Stable Diffusion”, generates images from text descriptions based on user input. It is Getty Images’ position that Stability AI infringed on copyrighted images and the associated metadata without a license to teach their AI model. This almost $2 billion lawsuit raises concerns about the future of AI and copyrights.

This case raises important questions about the extent to which existing copyrights and trademark laws can be applied to AI-generated works and whether new laws are needed to address the unique challenges posed by AI. It also highlights the need for clear guidelines for the use of existing works in the development of AI technologies to ensure that creators are properly compensated for the use of their works and to prevent disputes like the one between Getty Images and Stability AI.

Despite the challenges, it is important for society to find a way to balance the protection of copyrights with the potential benefits of AI. One approach is to clarify the ownership of AI-generated works through legislation. This could involve granting exclusive rights to the original creators or requiring that AI developers pay royalties to creators for the use of their works. Another approach is to develop new methods of copyright enforcement that are specifically designed for AI-generated works. For example, blockchain technology could be used to track the use and distribution of AI-generated works and ensure that creators are properly compensated.

As AI continues to evolve and play a larger role in the creative industries, and society as a whole, it is important to consider its impact on copyrights. While there are certainly challenges associated with AI and copyrights, it is possible to find a way to balance the protection of copyrights with the potential benefits of AI. This will require a combination of legal clarification and technological innovation, but it is essential for ensuring that creators are properly compensated for their works and that innovation in the creative industries is not stifled.

Ashley Holland is an intellectual property attorney in the MVS Biotechnology and Chemical Practice Group. To learn more, visit our MVS website, or contact Ashley directly via email.

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