Hi there. Thanks for stopping by. You'll have to excuse the rudimentary look of this webpage. I'm a lawyer, not an artist.  Actually, I'm a copyright lawyer, writer, avid traveler, and fan of most things 1970s brit-punk. There's more, but that's the short story.

This is my personal web page. Right now I'm using the page as a blog on copyright law. I'll write every day - give or take - about new legal decisions, interesting Copyright Office activities, noteworthy legal filings, and the like. I'll start a music blog at some point, but that's in the future. 

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2023 was the year of artificial intelligence. No, the robots haven’t become our overlords yet. And we are “still a long way from the science fiction version of artificial general intelligence that thinks, feels, and refuses to open the pod bay doors”, as one wag put it. But this was the year that AI broke out of the labs and into the consumer space in full form.

The phrase you need to know is “generative AI”. That’s the form of AI that is capable of generating human-like responses to inputs.

Some of the main examples of generative AI are the following:

AI threatens to impact, and even reshape, our copyright jurisprudence in any of a number of ways. Here are some of the questions that the Copyright Office, Congress, and the courts—and eventually the Supreme Court—will have to address:

I will focus on copyright in this writeup—but it won’t surprise you to learn that AI is talked about everywhere. President Biden put out an executive order on AI (and every federal agency is engaged in the issues too). Congress is holding hearing after hearing. The European Union just reached an agreement on comprehensive regulations (they’re ahead of the U.S. on this). AI is playing a role in labor negotiations (case in point: the agreement that ended the Screen Actors Guild strike has a provision that AI can’t be considered a writer). Pretty much every area of law and commerce is changed—for the better, we can all hope—by AI.

Copyright Office Action

The Copyright Office—to its great credit—has been out in front of this issue. They’re working on two distinct fronts.

One front is decision-making. More and more authors are now generating works with artificial intelligence and trying to persuade the Copyright Office to register a copyright in them. So far, the Office has been holding firm. In March, the Office put out guidance on registration of AI-generated works. The gist of the guidance was that there’s a difference between a human using AI as an assisting tool (think CAD, Instagram filters, Adobe formatting tools, and the like) and using a computer to make the actual creative decisions that otherwise would be left to humans. “[If] the traditional elements of authorship in the work (literary, artistic, or musical expression or elements of selection, arrangement, etc.) were actually conceived and executed not by man but by a machine”, the Office says, then no luck.

The Office has consistently applied this guidance. In February, it refused to register a work created by an inventor with the aid of Midjourney. In September, it refused to register another Midjourney work (this one, as it happens, had just won an art award at the Colorado State Fair—you can imagine how upset people were when they learned it was created by AI!). And earlier this month (in a decision we recently covered on our blog), the Office refused to register a piece of artwork created using an AI machine known as RAGHAV. (That one was particularly interesting because putative author had success getting the same work registered in India and Canada—but no dice here.)

The Copyright Office’s view on registration of AI-created works was significantly bolstered in August when the federal court for the District of Columbia sided with the Office over a work called A Recent Entrance to Paradise. The colorful, unusual artwork—showing a set of train tracks running through an array of unidentifiable foliage—was submitted for registration by Stephen Thaler, a prominent inventor and developer of a computer system entitled the Creativity Machine. The Copyright Office rejected the claim, and the court agreed. Humans can use computers to aid their work, the court held, but “copyright has never stretched so far as to protect works generated by new forms of technology operating absent any guiding human hand”.

The other aspect of the Office’s work has been policymaking. The Office maintains a website that is chock-full of information about its public activities—testimony to Congress, guidance letters, webinars, and other information. The Office has also undertaken a massive study on artificial intelligence which kicked off an open call for opinions on the impact of artificial intelligence and copyright law. They received a whopping ten thousand responses to the inquiry. (I asked a copyright office attorney at one point who was responsible for reviewing those responses. She said: “I have been instructed to tell you that the review is being undertaken by humans.”)

Copyright Litigation

The courts are also busy making law. Over the course of the last year, a wide range of songwriters, writers, visual artists, photographers, and other creators have been filing lawsuits against the makers of artificial intelligence programs. Those lawsuits, which are now in their preliminary stages, will require the courts to eventually decide all of the key issues involving artificial intelligence—from ingestion to output to everything in between.
Here’s a look at the most prominent ones.

A. Visual Artists

B. Photographers

C. Print writers

D. Songwriters


Last but not least—or given the state of political affairs these days, perhaps indeed least—is Congress. It’s hard to expect a lot out of the legislature these days. But Congress is nonetheless doing its thing, holding hearings, etc.

The main action this year has been in the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Intellectual Property. That committee held a two part hearing (I covered the second one for IP Law Daily here) over the summer. The biggest issues on tap are the following:

Ending (Deep) Thoughts

Hang on tight. 2024 will be a wild ride.

More Posts on My Copyright Blog Here