When AI Writes On Spec

The deal to settle the Writers Guild of America strike last week could achieve more than to bring an end to one of the longest work stoppages in Hollywood history. It is likely to prove a benchmark agreement for other unions and professions looking to protect their members from the threat to their livelihoods from generative AI, not least the still-on strike Screen Actors Guild.

AI and Authors’ Rights: A French Disconnection

The U.S. Copyright Office last week extended the deadline to submit comments in its inquiry into artificial intelligence, “To ensure that members of the public have sufficient time to prepare fulsome responses to the Office’s questions.” Respondents will now have until the stroke of Halloween to get their comments in, 12 days later than the original deadline. But while U.S. regulators and Congress deliberate, a group of deputies in France’s National Assembly (parliament) this month introduced an AI copyright proposal that could serve as an object lesson in just how difficult it will be to design a coherent and workable copyright regime for the new technology.

Music Royalties Go Private

The Hipgnosis Songs Fund (HSF) kickstarted the music rights investment boom in back in 2018 when its shares first listed on the London Stock Exchange raising $1.2 billion. By then, its founder and CEO, Merck Mercuriadis, had already emerged as a leading voice for the music royalty investment case and had begun assembling a portfolio of several thousand song copyrights. HSF’s successful listing and high-profile early catalog acquisitions drew other music rights investors into the public capital markets, including Round Hill Music, which listed its Round Hill Music Royalty Fund (RHM) on the London Exchange in 2020 and Reservoir Media, which went public through a SPAC merger backed by Roth Capital in 2021.

Book Publishers Stick a Toe Into Streaming Waters

Long after music, movie, games, podcast and television producers and rights owners made the leap to all-you-can-eat streaming, the Big Five trade book publishers in the U.S. have kept their audiobook releases off subscription platforms. Though subscription access to audiobooks is widely available in Europe, South America, the Middle East and Asia, through services like StoryTel and BookBeat, the most the major houses have allowed streaming platforms like Spotify and Amazon’s Audible to offer in the U.S. is for their subscribers to earn credits toward the purchase of single-title, a la carte downloads.

The Copyright Office Digs In On AI Licensing and Liability: An Annotated Guide

The U.S. Copyright Office on Wednesday (August 30) launched the next phase of its Artificial Intelligence Initiative, issuing a formal Notice of Inquiry (NOI) inviting public comments on the legal and policy implications of generative AI technology for copyright law and markets for creative works. The comments will inform the Office’s eventual recommendations to congress regarding possible legislative responses to the AI’s rise and rapid growth.

The Office seeks input on four broad areas of interest:

  • The use of copyrighted works to train generative AI models;
  • The copyrightability of material generative by AI systems;
  • The potential liability for infringement by AI generated works
  • The treatment of generative AI outputs that imitate the identity or style of human artists.

News You Can’t Use

EXTRA The New York Times apparently has withdrawn its support for a nascent effort otherwise involving several leading news organizations aimed at filing one or more lawsuits against AI developers for scraping publishers’ archives without permission. Instead, the Paper of Record is reportedly considering unilateral litigation against OpenAI, after negotiations collapsed between the Times and the ChatGPT-developer over the terms of use of Times content to train the large language model (LLM) AI system.

Paradise Lost

It took U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell all of 15 pages to dispense with AI developer Stephen Thaler’s argument that the U.S. Copyright Office and the U.S. Supreme Court have been misreading copyright law and the Constitution for the last 139 years. In granting the Copyright Office’s motion for summary judgment against Thaler last week in his lawsuit challenging the Office’s repeated refusal to accept registration for an image Thaler maintained was “autonomously created” by a generative AI system, Judge Howell reaffirmed the principle that copyright protection extends only to works created by human authors. Just as every court has done uniformly since 1884 when the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of extending copyright protection to photographs in Burrow-Giles Lithographic Co. v. Sarony.

Better (AI) Licensing Through Metadata

EXTRA With political pressure mounting over the head-snapping advances in generative artificial intelligence technology, on both sides of the Atlantic, a group of leading AI companies last week unveiled a new industry-led initiative to develop safety and transparency standards for the design and use of generative AI models.

While the new Frontier Model Forum is not primarily intended to address the controversies swirling around intellectual property and AI, some of what is expected to come out of the effort could, at least incidentally, help advance what copyright litigation and agitation have so far failed to achieve, or even articulate: a plausible means by which the the use of copyrighted material to train generative AI systems, and the copyrightability of their output, could be subject to workable licensing regimes. Among those is the expected introduction of a method for identifying and flagging AI-generated works for users.

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