AI and issue of copyright infringement

Context: The recent decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Inc. versus Goldsmith et al. case has added more unpredictability to the process of being exempted from copyright infringement liabilities. The judgment is set to have implications for how we regulate a powerful form of artificial intelligence.

Generative AI programs (like ChatGPT, Midjourney, DALL-E etc.) may infringe copyright in existing works, either by making copies of existing works to train the AI or by generating outputs that resemble those existing works. 

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Copyright law in India:

  • The Copyright Act in India, 1957 provides a legal framework for the protection of copyright and related rights. The Act grants copyright protection to:
    • Original literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works
    • Cinematograph films
    • Sound recordings, and
    • Computer programs 
  • Copyright holders have exclusive rights over their works, including the right to reproduce, communicate to the public, perform, adapt, and translate the work. In contrast to patents, copyright safeguards expressions rather than ideas. 
  • Under Section 52(1)(a) of the Copyright Act, certain acts are exempted from copyright infringement if they fall within the scope of fair dealing.
    • Fair dealing allows for the use of copyrighted works for specific purposes such as private study, research, criticism, review, news reporting, or incidental use. 
  • In addition to fair dealing, India’s Copyright Act also includes a detailed list of enumerated exceptions under Section 52(1)(a), which provides specific situations where the use of copyrighted works is allowed without obtaining permission from the copyright owner.
    • They include reproduction for educational purposes, certain library and archive use, performance or display of works during religious ceremonies etc. 

AI and Copyright issues:

  • Under Indian Copyright Law, the authorship of works created by artificial intelligence (AI) is currently a topic of debate and does not have a clear legal framework. The Copyright Act, 1957, does not specifically address the issue of AI-generated works or the determination of authorship in such cases.
    • Traditionally, copyright law recognizes human authors as the creators of original works, as they exercise creative judgment and skill in their creation.
    • However, with the rise of AI technology and its ability to generate original works independently, questions have emerged regarding the attribution of authorship.
  • According to Section 2 (d) of the Copyrights Act, the “author” means the person who causes the work to be created (concerning any literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work which is computer generated). This bars the AI from owning any authorship because it is generally not regarded as a legal person. 
  • Hence, in the absence of specific legislation or judicial precedents in India, determining authorship for AI-generated works remains uncertain

Practise MCQ:

Q. Consider the following statements with reference to the Copyrights Act in India:

1. The Copyrights Act in India safeguards original ideas as well as their expressions.

2. Certain acts are exempted from copyright infringement if they fall within the scope of fair dealing.

Which of the above statements is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

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Answer: (b) 

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