The recent explosion in popularity of generative artificial intelligence (AI), such as ChatGPT, has sparked a legal debate over whether the works created by this technology should be afforded copyright protections. Despite that several lawsuits on the subject have been filed, and the U.S. Copyright Office has recently issued guidance clarifying its position, that the bounds of copyright protections for works created using AI are not yet clearly defined and many questions remain unanswered. For now, it appears that copyright eligibility for such works depends on the extent of human involvement in the creative process and whether any use of copyrighted work to generate a new work falls within the purview of the fair use doctrine.
The analysis of this issue has been framed around two key aspects of the technology itself: input data and output data. Input data are the pre-existing data that human users introduce into the AI system that the system then uses to generate new works. Output data are the works ultimately created by the system—the finished product. Thus, copyright eligibility for AI-generated or AI-assisted works depends on whether the AI system’s use of copyrighted works as input data is permissible and whether the output data is itself copyrightable.
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