AI-Generated Content and Protections Under Copyright Law


The Gist:

  • More AI means more government. This initiative is in response to recent rapid AI advancement.
  • Marketing message. What’s yours — and what’s AI content?
  • The answer: it’s complicated. Ongoing debate about what’s considered “human” is the only way to ameliorate this problem, and with lawsuits on the rise, there is not a clear answer.

The U.S. Copyright Office launched a new initiative that examines content generated by AI in “direct response to the recent striking advances in generative AI technologies and their rapidly growing use by individuals and businesses.”

“The Copyright Office has received requests from Congress, and members of the public, including creators and AI users, to examine the issues raised for copyright, and it is already receiving applications for registration of works including AI-generated content,” officials wrote.

It gets trickier and trickier the more you use generative AI-driven content and campaigns. This is a copyright conundrum for digital marketers, as AI has become a creative aid for many businesses and employers, and is frequently used to help create targeted ads, design websites and enhance the customer experience. 

The US government attempts to map it all out in its registration guidance posted in the Federal Register this month.

US Message: Your Computer Is Not an Author

According to the Copyright Office’s entry into the Federal Register this month, “If a work’s traditional elements of authorship were produced by a machine, the work lacks human authorship and the Office will not register it.” Since copyright only applies to content created by human minds, any AI-generated content can be reproduced, sold and distributed without getting permission from the person/people who generated it.

Here’s the example the U.S. Copyright uses:

When an AI technology receives solely a prompt from a human and produces complex written, visual, or musical works inresponse, the ‘‘traditional elements of authorship’’ are determined and executed by the technology — not the human user. Based on the Office’s understanding of the generative AI technologies currently available, users do not exercise ultimate creative control over how such systems interpret prompts and generate material. Instead, these prompts function more like instructions to a commissioned artist — they identify what the prompter wishes to have depicted, but the machine determines how those instructions are implemented in its output.

The big message for marketers? Watch what you create for content, because all of it may not be yours.

“Generative AI tools are amazing, and they give us the ability to enhance creativity and scale content creation,” Paul Roetzer, CEO and found of Marketing AI Institute, said in a LinkedIn post. “But, you may not own, or be able to protect, the outputs. Talk to your IP attorneys.”

Related Article: Generative AI: Opportunities and Challenges for Marketing

The Rise of AI and its Role in Marketing

The rise of generative AI over the last few months has been exponential, and will likely continue to skyrocket. This is due to a recent advancement in the way AI uses machine learning to process and generate content. According to a 2023 article by Allianz Global Investors, humans were previously needed to classify data — identifying an image as a “dog,” for example — but AI has evolved to its own predictions and calculations. This is why software like Dall-E and ChatGPT have become so popular. Now, Allianz Global noted, “the machine has moved from being able to identify the dog in an image to creating an image of the dog.”


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