AI Generated Images and Copyright


AI Generated Images and Copyright


14:00-14:05  Introduce
14:05-15:45  Panel Discussion

  • Moderator:
    Tsai,Chih-Hung─Division-Chief Judge, Taiwan Shilin District Court
  • Penelists:
    • Lin, Sih-Han─Director of Group.G
    • Chen, Jia-Jyun─Chairman, Taiwan Information Intellectual Property Association
    • Fong, Jerry G. ─Professor, Graduate Institute of Technology, Innovation & Intellectual
      Property Management, NCCU
    • Chang, Harley ─Designer, BAD BONE

15:45-16:00  Q&A

At the opening, Judge Tsai Chih-Hung mentioned that in the history of human development, the output of human labor has become increasingly larger with technological progress. Although mechanical power can replace heavy work and increase output, it cannot replace human creativity as creativity requires human thinking, which cannot be generated by the power of machinery. Until the emergence of ChatGPT and other generative AI imaging programs, the threshold seems to have been crossed. AI production is unlimited while human is NOT. For example, the basic idea of copyright protection used to be for the expression of ideas, with AI tool such as Midjourney to output the expression of ideas, is it still within the scope of traditional copyright protection? This is worthy of discussion.

The panel started with the discussion about the legal owner of AI-generated works, Professor Feng Jerry G said that there are many AI tools available on the market, and users may not only use a single type of AI technology. It may be difficult to define the owner of AI-generated works. Perhaps it can be distinguished from rights and obligations. We should not only focus on the attribution of rights of AI-generated works but also recognize from the perspective of whether they can bear legal responsibility. The assignment of rights and obligations can be defined through user agreements in services. In addition, because of the emergence of AI, we need to consider whether to change the current protection methods for copyright, patents, etc. Should we follow the existing legal framework, or give new frameworks as norms?

Chairman Chen Jia-Jyun pointed out that the current mainstream consensus on copyright internationally is that works are protected as long as they are not obtained through plagiarism, imitation, theft, and other means. The extent of protection given depends on the degree of creative content in the work, but the prerequisite is that these works are “human-made.” Otherwise, they are not within the scope of protection. Chen cited examples from China to illustrate this point. In 2021, the Shenzhen court ruled that Tencent owned the copyright of a news release generated by AI. The European Patent Office has also rejected two patent applications for equipment inventions claiming AI as the inventor because the author of the patent must be “human” rather than a “machine.” In the UK Copyright Act, the degree of human involvement in creating the work (e.g., contributors who develop the algorithm or software necessary for the work) is used to determine who owns the copyright. However, using the degree of “human intervention” to determine copyright ownership can lead to two additional problems: Who contributed more, humans or AI? And if there is a copyright dispute, who is responsible? Chairman Chen also cautioned that even though user agreements can regulate rights and obligations, courts may not necessarily recognize them in the event of copyright infringement cases.

Director Lin Sih-han believes that “copyright” and “use” of the work can be viewed separately. He thinks that being able to use works generated by AI tools reasonably in commercial activities and being able to take responsibility is very important. Currently, in commercial use, Director Lin suggests being honest with clients about the percentage of the work that was generated by AI tools, and using a signed agreement to regulate responsibility attribution issues. Designer Chang Harley also echoed this view. He further compared the designer’s extensive collection of various elements to create their own works with the operating principle of AI currently grabbing existing works and generating new works. Owners or clients may not necessarily be able to perceive the differences between these two types of works. Therefore, it is more important to be honest about the use of AI tools.

When discussing the impact of AI-generated works on creators, director Lin believes that AI tools may compress the living space of creators to some extent, but there is no need to worry too much. He thinks that currently, copyright protection is for the expression of creativity, not creativity itself. Designer Chang Harley believes that with the assistance of AI tools, many complex steps can be simplified, and the biggest change for designers is the ability to shorten design time, increase productivity, and present concrete images without the need to be familiar with various drawing techniques.

In the discussion of whether the style of a work is also protected, Professor Feng believes that there is still room for discussion on this issue. Professor Feng used the virtual singer Hatsune Miku from Japan as an example. Hatsune Miku’s voice was created by using Yamaha’s VOCALOID engine and Crypton’s self-developed NT song synthesis engine after obtaining the authorization of a Japanese voice actor, and then creating a voice library software that belongs to Hatsune Miku. This is using existing materials to derive creations that belong to one’s own style. However, it is still important for users to have self-discipline, be able to grasp the scale, and not use their creations for illegal purposes. In the United States, there have been cases of using someone else’s voice for fraud. As for whether the style of a work should also be protected, Professor Feng pointed out that the protection of style is necessary when the purpose of using someone else’s style is to cause misunderstanding among third parties.

Director Lin discusses from the perspective of a creator, pointing out that when someone learns the styles of many artists and then incorporates them into their own work, when people see this creation, will they think of the creator himself or other creators? If the work itself does not mislead others, then there is less of a problem. However, whether it is a director or a painter, every creator may progress over time or have different ideas, and the so-called creative style may change as a result. Therefore, Director Lin believes that what is protected is the will that the creator wants to convey, rather than the image/artwork presented. There are many AI tools available on the market now, and the key is not which tool is more suitable to use, but how to use these tools to create works that can convey one’s own will. Designer Chang believes that the progress of technology mainly stems from human laziness. Choosing suitable AI tools is important, but not losing one’s own thinking ability is the most important thing.

Judge Tsai summarized briefly on the moral and legal aspects, mentioning that creators using AI for their creations should remember the principle of disclosure and not present AI-generated works as personal creations. Additionally, he suggested that creators should keep a detailed record of the entire creative process and interaction with AI, including data on how they interacted with AI. This evidence could be used as a basis for argument in court, if necessary, in the future.

At the end of the symposium, each expert presented their own imagination and outlook for the future world. Professor Feng believed that AI could help humans continue to grow, and as long as it is well utilized, it should be able to lead the world towards a better direction. Chairman Chen stated that the wave of new technology is unstoppable, and we should embrace it with open arms, without setting too many legal restrictions. Director Lin believed that although new technology may impact certain industries, it will also promote more diverse development, so there is no need to be overly anxious. Designer Chang pointed out that even though AI design is currently a trend, it does not mean that everyone who learns this technology will switch careers to become a designer. He believes that improper use of AI technology is the key issue that needs to be focused on in the future.

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