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US Copyright Office wants to hear what people think about AI and copyright

The US Copyright Office is opening a public comment period around AI and copyright issues beginning August 30th as the agency figures out how to approach the subject. 

As announced in the Federal Register, the agency wants to answer three main questions: how AI models should use copyrighted data in training; whether AI-generated material can be copyrighted even without a human involved; and how copyright liability would work with AI. It also wants comments around AI possibly violating publicity rights but noted these are not technically copyright issues. The Copyright Office said if AI does mimic voices, likenesses, or art styles, it may impact state-mandated rules around publicity and unfair competition laws. 

Written comments are due on October 18th, and replies must be submitted to the Copyright Office by November 15th. 

The copyright status of AI training data and the output of generative AI tools has become a hot topic for politicians, artists, authors, and even civil rights groups, making it a potential testing ground for coming AI regulation. The Copyright Office says that “over the past several years, the Office has begun to receive applications to register works containing AI-generated material.” It may use the comments to inform how it decides to grant copyright in the future.

The Copyright Office was involved in a lawsuit last year after it refused to grant Stephen Thaler rights to an image created by an AI platform. Earlier this month, a Washington, DC, court sided with the US Copyright Office in the case, stating copyright has never been handed to any work without a human involved.

Meanwhile, many large language models that power generative AI tools ingest information that’s freely available online. While it’s not often clear if copyrighted material is part of a given tool’s training dataset, several lawsuits have already been filed alleging copyright infringement. Three artists sued generative AI art platforms Stable Diffusion and Midjourney and the art website DeviantArt for allegedly taking their art without their consent and using it to train AI models. Comedian Sarah Silverman and authors Christopher Golden and Richard Kadrey filed their own legal action against OpenAI and Meta for allegedly using their books to help improve ChatGPT and LLaMA. 

Concerns over the usage of intellectual property in AI models also prompted several news organizations to block OpenAI’s web crawler to prevent it from scraping their data. 

Lawmakers have invited various AI stakeholders to discuss the best way to regulate AI. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer even called on his peers to pick up the pace with rulemaking around the technology.

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