Monday, December 04, 2023

Consultation on Copyright in the Age of Artificial General Intelligence: my response

This is my response to Industry Canada's Consultation on Copyright in the Age of Artificial General Intelligence. The deadline for responses has been extended to Jan. 15, 2024.

Technical Evidence

Question*: How do businesses and consumers use AI systems and AI-assisted and AI-generated content in your area of knowledge, work, or organization? 

 My response:

In libraries, machine learning AI in the form of recommender systems ranking results by relevance (like Netflix) is in widespread use. Generative AI is in earlier stages of exploration and/or implementation in libraries and information management as a means of further automating and enriching information resource description and classification. On the other hand, the tendency of popular AI tools such as ChatGPT to invent content is raising concerns about spread of mis- and disinformation, complicating the work of ensuring that the public has access to high quality, accurate information. In academia, AI is in early stages of use for the purposes of accelerating research. AI raises both interest and concern with respect to pedagogy. Noteworthy examples of emerging types of applications include language learning supports for students, brainstorming, and automated translation, noting that results to date are best considered as early drafts. 


Text and Data Mining




If the Government were to amend the Act to clarify the scope of permissible TDM activities, what should be its scope and safeguards? What would be the expected impact of such an exception on your industry and activities?


Should there be any obligations on AI developers to keep records of or disclose what copyright-protected content was used in the training of AI systems? 


My response:


TDM for discovery purposes should be legal across all kinds of materials (e.g. to find songs, films, novels, and stories of interest, not for AGI training). To facilitate the advances AI is making possible in scientific and non-commercial research, TDM for training AGI should be legal for these purposes (follow UK / Switzerland example). One recommended change in copyright law to facilitate AI advances in Canada is to eliminate Section 41 Technological Protection Measures and Rights Management Information from the Copyright Act. This section prohibits circumvention even for purposes that are legal under the Act while it is unnecessary for purposes that are illegal under the Act. AI developers should be required to track and disclose materials used for training purposes. Legislation to this effect at this time would encourage development of efficient automated processes at an early stage in AI development.

Authorship and ownership of works created by AI




Is the uncertainty surrounding authorship or ownership of AI-assisted and AI-generated works and other subject matter impacting the development and adoption of AI technologies? If so, how?


Should the Government propose any clarification or modification of the copyright ownership and authorship regimes in light of AI-assisted or AI-generated works? If so, how? 


My response:

Rapid growth of AI-generated content demonstrates that concerns about authorship and ownership are not a significant impediment. A Google search for “Amazon ChatGPT self-publishing” retrieves over 21 million results, with how-to books and publishing services at the top of the list. ChatGPT can produce a story “in the style of” a human author such as Margaret Atwood in seconds. This rapid growth raises two types of concerns 1) for human creators whose works and identity can easily be used with AI training to create new works to compete with the original creator and 2) for increasing production and distribution of mis/disinformation when a tool like ChatGPT (described by AI experts as having a tendency to “hallucinate”) is used to create nonfiction works without the oversight of human experts. 


Comments and suggestions


My response: 


Achieving the potential benefits of AI requires TDM exemptions for scientific and non-commercial research following the UK / Switzerland example and elimination of Section 41 of the Copyright Act Technological Protection Measures and Rights Management Information. Most potential benefits of AI do not involve the use of others’ copyrighted material – for example, companies and individuals using AI to automate or build on their own work. Encouraging AI users to make use of the copyrighted work of human creators raises two concerns, 1) the possibility of training AI using the work and identity of a human creator to capitalize on their identity and compete with them in the marketplace, and 2) the possibility of increasing creation of mis/dis-information in the case of non-fiction works. Concern about AI identity misuse is broader than traditional copyrighted works, for example use of images of individuals in pornographic works without their knowledge or consent.


* The consultation includes more questions - I am only including the questions here that I chose to respond to. 





Friday, October 27, 2023

AI and copyright: submission to the U.S. Copyright Office Artificial Intelligence Study

This comment was submitted Oct. 26, 2023 to the U.S. Copyright Office's Artificial Intelligence Study

 Copyright laws internationally do not provide human creators with sufficient moral and related rights (identity and publicity) in the context of artificial intelligence. Significant work is needed at the national and international levels to meet what I would argue is a minimal ethical standard, and this should not be rushed. In the meantime, the remedy that I recommend is to limit copyright on works produced with substantial AI involvement to AI works trained on material in the public domain. For example, AI artists are creating new works based on freely available images from the Mars rover; such works do not raise the ethical questions that are the focus of this submission. To illustrate the problem when works are based on contemporary human creators, note that current AI tools such as Stable Diffusion (images) and ChatGPT allow anyone to create new works "in the style of" a particular creator, and it is clear that this is occuring without any attempt to obtain permission from the creator. With ChatGPT, anyone can quickly verify this by asking ChatGPT to write a story "in the style of" any well-known author. The works of Canadian artists that were not publicly available have been found in a service using Stable Diffusion, along with a tool to create new works "in the style of" these artists. If this is done with the intent of publishing the results, I argue that this is an example of identity theft or fraud, particularly (but not exclusively) if the downstream creation is published with the name of the original creator with commercial benefit to the downstream creator. There are potential reputational and economic harms to original creators. I argue that the potential harms to living human creators far outweigh any benefit from permitting AI to use their works and identity until legal protections can be put into place. As context for this comment, I would like to note that I am excited about the potential of AI to achieve more rapid advances in science, medicine, and everyday productivity in our workplaces and homes. I am an Associate Professor at the University of Ottawa's School of Information Studies, submitting as an individual, and long-time advocate for open access to scholarly publications, a topic on which I have contributed to prior U.S. government publications. Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this consultation.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

In the style of...AI, identity & reality

In brief

Artificial intelligence (AI) is already being used not only to draw from prior works to create new works, but also to create new works "in the style of" an existing creator. This should be raising questions about the rights of living creators as well as whether we want to live in a world where we can distinguish what is and is not real. These are urgent questions, from my perspective, in the context of the need to regulate AI with respect to creative works. While there are many reasons to rush to implement AI to help solve real-world problems (like developing vaccines to cope with new viruses, other medical and scientific advances, and using AI to increase productivity), I argue that there is no compelling reason to continue to permit people to use AI to usurp the identity of living creators, and plenty of reason to stop this practice. Even when works are out of copyright, there are potential dangers as well as benefits from allowing a proliferation of copies that are variations of original important works - and this practice may be counter to other current trends such as acknowledging traditional knowledge and countering the practice of cultural appropriation.


In La Presse, Péloquin (2022) reports finding a number of works by Canadian and Québec authors in the AI tool Stable Diffusion, works that were not publicly available, posted there without the knowledge of the authors. Users of Stable Diffusion can create new works "in the style of" living artists. Artists interviewed by Pélonquin expressed concern about the quality of these works (part of author moral rights in copyright) in addition to concern about the works being used for commercial sales.

As of today (Oct. 26, 2023) ChatGPT takes about a minute to write a short story in response to this prompt: "Please write a short story in the style of Margaret Atwood" (or Stephen King). Readers, I encourage you to try this experiment for yourself - but ignore and delete the results, as I have.

From my perspective, these examples of current practice raise questions with profound implications for society:

  1. Should human creators be able to claim exclusive rights to their identity and style? This goes beyond author moral rights as covered in existing copyright laws, and is a type of moral right with economic implications. I argue that we urgently need to protect human creators of all kinds in the race to create and implement AI regulation. 
  2. Is this "feature" of AI likely to contribute to a postmodern dystopia where it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish what is real from from what is not, accurate information from misinformation? One example of such a postmodern theory is the hyper-reality of simulacra (copies without originals) described by Baudrillard (1995).  Is this necessarily desirable even for works that are not under copyright? With the aid of AI, it is not hard to imagine the world being so inundated with the latest works "in the style of Plato" it becomes harder to locate and verify the authenticity of the original. Is unleashing this aspect of AI compatible with contemporary trends to address traditional knowledge, including cultural expressions, and resistance against cultural appropriation? I don't have the answers, but I think these questions merit serious, thoughtful consideration and is reason to limit the "creativity" of AI in this respect. 

As an author, I do not wish to allow anyone to use AI to create works "in the style of Heather Morrison (or IJPE), particularly not for sharing for commercial or non-commercial reasons. IJPE is open access, free for anyone to read and share as is for noncommercial purposes, but otherwise All Rights Reserved.

Side note: apparently ChatGPT does have some limits (perhaps due to pressure from copyright owners?). In response to the prompt, "Please write a prequel to Margaret Atwood's A Handmaids' Tale", the ChatGPT response is "I'm sorry, but I can't provide verbatim excerpts from copyrighted texts or create derivative works based on copyrighted materials. However, I can offer you a brief summary or discussion of potential themes and ideas for a prequel to Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale." Let me know how you'd like to proceed". 


Baudrillard, J. (1995). Simulacra and simulation. University of Michigan Press.

Pélonquin, T. (2022, October 10). L’art de copier sans payer. La Presse.
 Comments? Please send via e-mail to my work e-mail address which can be found here, and let me know if you would like your comment posted on this blog.

Housekeeping: change in focus from OA to AI

Since its inception, the focus of The Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics (IJPE) has been on open access while my original intention was always the broader topic of poetic economics (radical rethinking of how we can make use of the resources available to us to create a better world). As you may have noticed, my most recent IJPE post on OA is dated 2020. For a more complete set of my research on OA over the past decade, see Sustaining the Knowledge Commons (completed in 2022). As of October 2023, the focus of IJPE, reflecting my current research, is shifting towards information policy and in particular policy-related aspects of artificial intelligence (AI).