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Who owns the IP in AI?

When we start thinking about artificial intelligence (AI) as creators and not just tools, some interesting legal questions pop up. At its core, AI is just software running on a machine. But nowadays, AIs are coming up with inventions, writing stories, creating artworks, composing music, and even generating databases that

Ludo Lugnani profile image
by Ludo Lugnani
Who owns the IP in AI?

When we start thinking about artificial intelligence (AI) as creators and not just tools, some interesting legal questions pop up.

At its core, AI is just software running on a machine. But nowadays, AIs are coming up with inventions, writing stories, creating artworks, composing music, and even generating databases that could be protected by patents. So, does that mean AI can be considered inventors or authors? Let’s dive into this through the lens of UK law, but keep in mind, these questions aren't just about the UK.

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Patents

When it comes to patents, things are pretty straightforward. A machine, like AI, can't be listed as an inventor because it's not a human. This is the same in the UK as it is in many other places, including the US.

Copyright

Copyright laws are a bit different from patent laws because they actually cover works created by computers. According to the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988, if a computer (or AI) creates something like a book or a painting, the person who set up everything for the AI to do its job is considered the author. This was a big deal when it first came out in 1987 because it was the first law trying to tackle the rise of AI.

Now, if an AI makes something truly original that could be protected by copyright, figuring out who the actual "creator" is can get tricky. Is it the company or the programmers who made the AI? Or is it the user who told the AI what to do? And there’s no clear answer yet because the courts haven’t decided.

Many companies that make AI software have rules about this in their terms and conditions. For example, OpenAI says that whatever you ask their AI to do, and what it produces, belongs to you. Microsoft and Amazon say similar things—they don’t claim any rights over what their AI produces.

In the US, things are a bit different. If AI creates something, it's usually considered public unless it's clear that a human played a big part in making it. Only then can the human parts be protected by copyright.

What to Remember If You Use AI Services

Just like with any other legal rights, each country has its own rules about patents and copyrights. If you're using AI to create something valuable, you should know the copyright rules in that country to make sure your work can be protected. Just relying on what a company says in its terms might not be enough if the law doesn’t back it up.

Ludo Lugnani profile image
by Ludo Lugnani

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