The Writers’ Guild of America (WGA) and the music industry have different positions on the issue of copyright ownership of works produced with the help of artificial intelligence. While the WGA insists that writers should retain full ownership and control of scripts created with AI tools, the music industry often allows AI algorithms to generate and register musical compositions without significant human input.
In a recent statement, the WGA warned that AI-generated scripts pose a threat to writers’ livelihoods and creative autonomy. According to the WGA, if producers or technology companies claim ownership or co-ownership of scripts created with AI tools, writers could lose control over their own intellectual property and revenue streams. The WGA argues that writers should have the final say on whether to use AI tools in their creative process and how to license or sell the resulting works.
The music industry, on the other hand, has embraced AI-generated music as a new frontier of creative expression and commercial opportunity. Some music companies and platforms, such as Amper Music (now part of Shutterstock), Harmonai, and AIVA, offer AI-generated music for sale or licensing, claiming that the machine learning algorithms can produce original and high-quality compositions in various genres and moods. The music industry acknowledges that AI tools can save time, costs, and labor for composers, producers, and users, and can also generate new revenue streams from non-traditional musical applications, such as podcasts, video games, or advertisements.
However, the music industry also faces some challenges and questions regarding the legal and ethical status of AI-generated music. One key issue is whether AI-generated music can be eligible for copyright protection and if so, who should be considered the author or owner of the copyright. In the United States, copyright law grants exclusive rights of ownership to the authors or creators of original works of authorship, which can include “works of musical authorship.” However, to qualify for copyright protection, a musical work must meet certain criteria, such as originality, fixation, and creativity. Some legal experts argue that AI-generated works may not meet these criteria, since they are often based on pre-existing musical patterns or datasets and lack human intuition or intention. Other experts suggest that AI-generated works may still be original and creative enough to be protected by copyright, but that the copyright ownership should be shared between the AI developers and the users or customers of the music.
The RIAA lodged its 2022 Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy with the United States Trade Representative.The RIAA added AI-based extractors and mixers that allegedly copy the vocals, instrumentals or other portions of a sound recording and generate remixes “to be very similar to or almost as good as reference tracks by selected, well known sound recording artists”. “To the extent these services, or their partners, are training their AI models using our members’ music, that use is unauthorized and infringes our members’ rights by making unauthorized copies of our members works,” the RIAA said.
Furthermore, just a couple of weeks ago the U.S. Copyright Office launched a new initiative to examine the copyright law and policy issues raised by artificial intelligence (AI), including the scope of copyright in works generated using AI tools and the use of copyrighted materials in AI training.
The speed of AI evolution poses challenges for legal frameworks. The courts are struggling to keep up with the pace of technological change. A class action lawsuit has been filed against Stability AI, DeviantArt, and Midjourney. The lawsuit alleges infringement of billions of copyrighted images in creating AI art. Getty Images has filed a comparable lawsuit against Stability AI in the U.K. These lawsuits, currently directed at AI generated artwork, will test competing views on AI and copyright law. The outcome may have serious implications for the future of AI-generated creative works.