How the “monkey selfie” is affecting copyright law for art and writing produced by expert system
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How the “monkey selfie” is affecting copyright law for art and writing produced by expert system

Earlier this month, the United States Copyright Workplace and the World Intellectual Property Organization co-sponsored a seminar entitled Copyright in the Age of Expert System The purpose of the seminar was to take a look at “how the creative neighborhood currently is utilizing expert system (AI) to create initial works,” and “what level of human input suffices for the resulting work to be qualified for copyright security,” among other subjects.

In his short article for The Scholarly Kitchen, Todd A Carpenter read the conversation threads in WIPO’s public consultation and found out that the court choice concerning the popular monkey selfie of 2011 could guide copyright law relating to works produced by artificial intelligence.

In 2011, a nature photographer left his video camera on a tripod and an endangered Celebes crested macaques, intrigued by its reflection in the lens snapped possibly hundreds of photos of itself. One of those images wound up promoted by the professional photographer and it wound up in the British press. Other sites, such as Wikipedia and Techdirt recreated the picture on their sites, that the professional photographer and PETA ultimately perused in court to seek compensation as infraction of copyright. Whether the professional photographer could assert copyright in the photo was ultimately dismissed by the Ninth Circuit court of appeals in 2018.

In the Copyright Workplace’s Compendium of U.S. Copyright Workplace Practices, released on 22 December, 2014, the Office stated that, “only works produced by a human can be copyrighted under United States law, which omits photos and art work developed by animals or by machines without human intervention” and in addition, “Due to the fact that copyright law is restricted to ‘original intellectual conceptions of the author,’ the [copyright] office will refuse to sign up a claim if it figures out that a person did not develop the work. The Office will not sign up works produced by nature, animals, or plants.” What is exposed to broad interpretation is the function of human intervention. In the case of AI, so the argument goes, there is human intervention in the style of the algorithms, in their training, and in their post-algorithm curation.

( Image: Mirko Tobias Schäfer, CC BY 2.0)

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