AI Created Works and Authorship under Irish Copyright Law: I'm Afraid I Can't Copyright That

Date01 January 2020
AI Created Works and Authorship under Irish
Copyright Law: I’m afraid I can’t copyright that
I. Introduction
All technology starts from humble beginnings; from computers the size of a
room to smartphones, oppy disks to streaming services and digital storage in the
‘Cloud’. Technology that would have been unimaginable y years ago is treated as
a normal part of everyday life. e problem that arises is when the advancements
made begin to outpace our ability to control and regulate the technology itself.
Regulating technological advancements provides challenges to policy makers.
e benets of new technologies can be endless, that is undisputed. Yet, all
consequences need to be considered, with careful thought and analysis being a
must.1 One technological advancement that is beginning to require attention is
articial intelligence (‘AI’). AI has been a common science ction trope for many
years but it is becoming increasingly integrated into everyday life as well as more
and more advanced.2 As AI continues to progress, the processes it engages in
require less and less human input. As a result, the question arises: what happens
when an AI ‘creates’ a nished product and more importantly who owns that
creation; and who can enforce the rights, if any, that follow from this hypothetical
creation? While these questions at one point in history were merely academic, this
is now a real intellectual property law consideration.
is article will analyse these questions aer addressing a numb er of key preliminary
points. Part II will examine what an AI is for the purposes of this discussion, and
attempt to ground the language that surrounds this developing area of technology.
Part III will address some underlying rationales for having copyright protections
at all. Part IV will give a summary of copyright law in Ireland and address some
elements unique to the questions concerning AI and copyright. Part V will see an
analysis of the potential ownership of AI created products. Part VI will seek to oer
some recommendations and address the conclusions of this discussion.
* LL.B. (Dubl.), Solicitor.
1 In an open letter from the Future of L ife Institute entitled ‘Research Priorities for Robust and
Benecial Articial Intelligence’, it is noted ‘[ b]ecause of the great potential of AI, it is important to
research how to reap its benets while avoiding potential pitfalls’. is letter has been signed by over
8,000 signatories including the late Stephen Hawking.
2 For an interesting discussion with Ian Goodfellow, the creator of the GAN, or ‘generative adversarial
network’ where AIs work against each other to further learn and improve in their performance
of tasks see an-whos-given-
machines-the-gi-of-imagination/> accessed 16 April 2020.
2  
In this article, the use of ‘product’ when addressing the creations of AI is used to
prevent confusion between the hypothetical pieces created by an AI and the legal
term ‘works’, which when used in a copyright related context has a clear legislative
denition. ‘Create’ is used in the general sense of ‘to bring into existence’.
II. What is AI
e average layperson’s understanding of AI is typically rooted in science ction.
AI has been a common trope in media, with one of the earliest explorations of AI
in ction seen as far back as the 1860s.3 Nevertheless, AI is very much a reality.
A simple denition of AI is ‘a system capable of performing tasks that would
normally require human intelligence such as recognition, decision-making,
creation, learning, evolving, and communicating’.4 e notion that a computer
could learn beyond its programming is not a new or novel concept; Alan Turing , a
pioneer in computer science and part of the team that deciphered the Enigma code
used during the Second World War, stated that AI learning would ‘be like a pupil
who had learnt much from his master. When this happens, I feel that one is obliged
to regard the machine as showing intelligence’.5
Russell and Norvig reference eight dierent denitions in their discussions on
AI.6 ey are grouped under four main headings: inking Humanly, inking
Rationally, Acting Humanly and Acting Rationally. inking Humanly in this
context means anthropomorphising AI, and seeing it as a machine with a mind.
inking Rationally means viewing AI through the lens of being able to perceive,
reason and act accordingly. Acting Humanly is concerned with AI doing tasks that
humans normally do. Acting Rationally sees AI as being intelligent things; while
intelligent, it is still a thing or an object.
With regard to how an AI operates, there are inputs and outputs. As summarised
by Poole, there are a number of relevant inputs and they will vary depending on the
task the AI has to carry out.7 One example used is an infobot, which has the task
of extracting information from a variety of sources which includes the internet and
encyclopaedias. e input is a request to act a certain way or use certain things in
its task. Some inputs that would be needed include:
3 Samuel Butler, ‘Darwin among the Machines’ e Press (Christchurch, 13 June 1863) examined the
notion of ‘machines’ evolving beyond what we can perceive.
4 Shlomit Yanisky-Ravid, ‘Generating Rembrandt: Articial Intelligence, Copyright and Accountability
in the 3A Era – e Human-like Authors are Already Here – A New Model’ (2017) Michigan State
Law Review 659, 673.
5 L ecture to London Mathematical Society on 20 February 1947.
browse.php/B/1> accessed 16 April 2020.
6 Stuart J Russell and Peter Norvig, Articial Intelligence: A Modern Approach (3rd edn, Prentice Hall
2009) 2.
7 David Poole, Alan Mackworth, Randy Goebel, Computational Intelligence: A Logical Approach
(OUP 1998) 15.

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