Intellectual Property (IP) refers to exclusive rights associated to creations of the mind. These rights allow creators, or owners, of patents, trademarks or copyrighted works to benefit from their own work or investment in a creation. But what if these inventions are the products of an artificial intelligence, not a human mind?
We have passed the era of intelligence being only a feature of mankind. In 2016, a short novel written by a Japanese computer program, reached the second round of a national literary prize. Last year, Google started to fund an artificial intelligence program that will write local news articles. A month ago, a work of art created by an algorithm sold for $432.500. These developments bring to mind the following question: Should intellectual property rights be given to artificial intelligence? This question does not yet have a clear answer, but in this article we will examine two different approaches to the subject.
The basis of two different approaches depends on the determination of the value protected by IP rights. According to the ones who argue that artificial intelligence should acquire IP rights on their creations, intelligence in itself is the true value that needs to be protected. They believe that the main purpose of IP is not to protect the product only, but to protect the intelligence and originality behind it. Therefore, given the path of artificial intelligence, works that show a certain authenticity without human intervention are actually an indicator of intelligence that deserves to be protected as much as human intelligence. Although this kind of approach is not wrong, it can be criticized because of being too general perspective. Indeed, the other side of the argument goes that IP does not only seek to protect intelligence per se. It aims to uphold a particular form of intelligence, which is human, something that has long been the case across societies. The protection of a product of the human mind leads to encourage people to make another. If the results of the intellect were not protected then this may disincentive people from manufacturing the products and providing the services that the market relies on. Human progress would ultimately suffer. However, machines with artificial intelligence do not have these kind of concerns even they have the potential to create original inventions. Therefore, one of the areas where IP rights aim to protect and develop become dysfunctional on artificial intelligence. They do not possess all qualities to gain IP rights as they work only with the algorithms developed by a human programmer.
Nevertheless, it’s an undeniable fact that many of the works created by these intelligent machines entered our lives in different fields. They already being used to generate works in music, gaming and journalism. If these works are freely used and reused by everyone, assuming that they do not have copyrights because they are not created by a human being; then how can we avoid from violating the rights of the companies investing in these works? Although the exact impact that this situation will have on the creative economy is unpredictable, it will create a cooling effect for sure.
When all these discussions are evaluated together, I think there is only one legal solution for now. Seeing that, machines with artificial intelligence cannot gain IP rights because they are not eligible to carry them yet, on the other hand, unprotected inventions damage companies that rely on these inventions. So that, attributing authorship of such works to the creator of the program seems to be the best solution for all these problems. However, this will be a short-term solution, because artificial intelligence is developing much faster than we think, and there is no doubt that it will come to a phase that will end all these discussions.