In a landmark decision on August 18, 2023, US District Judge Beryl A. Howell ruled that artwork generated solely by artificial intelligence (AI) cannot be copyrighted. The ruling was made in response to a lawsuit against the US Copyright Office, which had previously denied a copyright request by Stephen Thaler for an image produced using his Creativity Machine algorithm.
The ruling made by Judge Howell stressed the fundamental premise of copyright law by noting that it has “never been granted to work that was ‘absent any guiding human hand'” and that “human authorship is a bedrock requirement of copyright.” Both of these statements were made in reference to the fact that copyright has “never been granted to work that was ‘absent any guiding human hand.'” Even if technological advancements are constantly being made, this viewpoint is consistent with the position taken by the United States Copyright Office, which maintains that the only “works of human creation” are entitled to legal protection under copyright laws.
The case received a lot of attention as a result of Thaler’s repeated efforts to register the AI-generated picture “as a work-for-hire to the owner of the Creativity Machine.” If this had been effective, it would have acknowledged the AI as the author while allowing Thaler to keep ownership of the work. However, none of his endeavors were successful since they were all greeted with failure.
Attorney Ryan Abbot of Brown Neri Smith & Khan LLP, who represents Stephen Thaler, has said that he disagrees with the court’s reading of the Copyright Act and suggested that an appeal of the verdict would be filed.
This judgement highlights the ongoing dispute around AI and copyright law, which is especially relevant given that AI is continuing to play an increasingly important role in creative sectors. As artificial intelligence (AI) technology progress and their applications in art and other industries increase, it is expected that the legal environment will encounter further obstacles and evolve as a result.
For now, the message is clear: while AI can be a tool for creation, the human element remains central to the concept of copyright in the United States.
Concerns over the usage of copyrighted material have risen to the forefront as the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the production of content becomes more commonplace. In response to these concerns, legislators in the European Union have approved a draft law with the intention of regulating both the firms that produce the technology and the technology itself.
The law, which is a component of the Artificial Intelligence Act of the EU, intends to categorize AI technologies according to the amount of danger they pose. The risk categories range from acceptable to unacceptable, with unacceptable being the highest. The use of high-risk instruments won’t be completely outlawed, but rather they’ll be subject to more stringent disclosure rules. It will soon be necessary for generative AI tools such as ChatGPT and Midjourney, among others, to report any usage of copyrighted resources made in the course of their AI training.
During the subsequent phase of debates among the legislatures and member states, the particulars of the law will be refined to their final form. According to Svenja Hahn, a member of the European Parliament, the bill in its current form strikes a balance between excessive levels of monitoring and excessive levels of regulation. This balance protects people while also encouraging innovation and contributing to economic growth.
The data watchdog for the European Union has voiced worry about the possible difficulties that artificial intelligence (AI) businesses in the United States may have if they do not comply with the General Data Protection Regulations.
Additionally, the European think tank known as Eurofi, which is comprised of organizations from both the public and private sectors, has published a magazine that features an entire section devoted to the applications of AI and machine learning in the financial sector of the EU. All of the mini-essays featured in this section touched on the forthcoming Artificial Intelligence Act in some way. They were on the topic of artificial intelligence (AI) innovation and regulation inside the EU, namely for usage in the financial sector.
One of the authors, Georgina Bulkeley, who is also the director for EMEA financial services solutions at Google Cloud, stressed the significance of AI regulation by stating that the technology is “too vital not to regulate. In addition to this, it is of insufficient significance to not properly regulate.”
In general, the proposed legislation represents a substantial advance toward the goal of regulating the use of AI and works protected by copyright in the EU. As the technology continues to improve and become more widespread in a variety of sectors, it is essential to ensure that it is used in a transparent and ethical manner in order to safeguard both customers and companies.
The use of artificial intelligence (AI) in content creation has led to controversies regarding its use of copyrighted material. In response, the European Union (EU) has passed a draft bill aimed at regulating the use of AI tools in such scenarios. The bill is part of the EU’s Artificial Intelligence Act and was proposed as draft rules almost two years ago.
The new bill will classify AI tools according to their risk level, ranging from minimal and limited to unacceptable. High-risk tools will not be banned outright but will be subjected to stricter transparency procedures. The bill will also oblige generative AI tools, including ChatGPT and Midjourney, to disclose any use of copyrighted materials in AI training.
The legislation has been seen as a middle ground between too much surveillance and over-regulation that protects citizens while also fostering innovation and boosting the economy. Svenja Hahn, a member of the European Parliament, commented on the bill’s current status, stating that it strikes a balance between protecting citizens and fostering innovation.
The use of AI in the financial industry was also discussed in the latest edition of Eurofi, a European think tank composed of enterprises in the public and private sectors. The publication included a section on AI and machine learning applications in finance in the EU, which included five mini-essays on AI innovation and regulation within the EU. All of the essays touched on the upcoming Artificial Intelligence Act.
Georgina Bulkeley, the director for EMEA financial services solutions at Google Cloud, stated that AI is too important not to regulate and that it is too important not to regulate well. These developments come after the EU’s data watchdog expressed concerns about potential issues that AI companies in the United States may face if they do not comply with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulations.
In conclusion, the EU’s move to regulate AI use of copyrighted material is an attempt to strike a balance between protecting citizens and fostering innovation. With the increasing use of AI in various industries, it is important to have regulations in place to ensure that AI tools are used ethically and responsibly.
Lawyers for major fast food chain Jack in the Box have filed a lawsuit against crypto exchange FTX US for copyright and trademark infringement of its “Jack” mascot.
According to federal court documents filed in the Southern District of California on Nov. 3, Jack in the Box’s legal team is requesting a jury trial, claiming FTX US’ Moon Man character — Lou Nar, an adult male typically dressed in polo shirts with the head of a moon used for Major League Baseball events — is a ripoff of the company’s current version of its Jack mascot. The fast food company describes its character as “a typical adult human male, with the exception of his large spherical white head, blue dot eyes, nose, and curvy smile.”
“Rather than spending its vast financial resources to develop its own intellectual property, FTX brazenly and illegally copied or derived its ‘Moon Man’ mascot from JITB’s Jack,” the company alleged in court documents:
“Just like Jack, FTX’s Moon Man has a spherical white head also affixed to a talking human actor, with blue-dotted eyes, a nose, and a smile. The two characters are strikingly similar in both appearance and behavior. For example, the Moon Man also changes his facial expressions and clothing attire throughout advertisements and appearances, just like Jack.”
Jack in the Box’s legal team added that it considered the FTX US mascot a “far inferior version” of Jack, claiming it was tarnishing the fast food company’s reputation to consumers. The documents list incidents of reporters and many on social media comparing the two characters’ appearance, sometimes describing the Moon Man as a “dirty” version of Jack.
Hey, @FTX_Official , your mascot doesn’t look like the moon. He looks like Jack-In-The-Box with skin cancer.
— Aunt Clara (@Ms_Apprehension) October 15, 2021
Though the original version of Jack in the Box’s character was created in 1951, the current ‘Jack’ or ‘Jack I. Box’ voiced by Dick Sitting was developed in 1995 and appeared in more than 300 television and radio commercials. Crypto exchange FTX was founded in 2019 and introduced the Moon Man this year.
The filing shows lawyers for Jack in the Box sent FTX a cease and desist letter to stop using the character on Oct. 15, to which FTX refused, claiming “Jack in the Box has only narrow protection limited to the behatted ping pong‐headed clown who exploded out of a box to sell burgers.” Jack in the Box’s case includes allegations related to copyright infringement, trademark dilution, trademark infringement, false designation of origin, and unfair competition.
Related:Copyright infringement and NFTs: How artists can protect themselves
Many pictures, symbols, and memes have often been used by figures in the crypto space to pump or create FUD around some tokens, including Pepe the Frog, and even the Bitcoin (BTC) logo itself, attributed to Satoshi Nakamoto. In June 2020, someone anonymously registered the BTC name and logo with the Spanish Patent and Trademark Office claiming they wanted to “protect Bitcoin.”
Chinese multinational e-commerce firm, Alibaba Group Holding, has launched a new nonfungible tokens (NFTs) marketplace allowing trademark holders to sell tokenized licenses to their intellectual property.
The new NFT marketplace, dubbed “Blockchain Digital Copyright and Asset-Trade,” can be accessed via Alibaba’s Auction platform. NFTs launched via the platform will be issued on the “New Copyright Blockchain” — a distributed ledger technology platform centrally operated by the Sichuan Blockchain Association Copyright Committee.
According to an Aug. 17 report from the Alibaba-owned news publication, South China Morning Post (SCMP), the marketplace hopes to target writers, musicians, artists, and game developers.
The marketplace is already live, hosting several NFTs that are set to be auctioned next month. Bidders must post a deposit of 500 yuan (roughly $77) to participate in auctions. Each upcoming auction has set a reserve price of $15 each.
Buyers can view their collections via crypto portfolio application, Bit Universe, which is integrated into WeChat.
Commenting on the new marketplace, SCMP reporter Josh Ye tweeted that “although the technology itself does not prevent unauthorised copying. Sales include complete ownership of works purchased through the platform.”
Many NFTs on display do not articulate what rights are afforded to purchasers, with one NFT even appearing to depict unlicensed Star Wars fan art.
Related: Musician sells rights to deepfake her voice using NFTs
While this is Alibaba’s biggest NFT announcement to date, many of the firm’s subsidiaries have are already embracing nonfungible tokens.
In July, Cointelegraph reported that Alibaba-owned e-commerce platform Taobao showcased NFTs for the first time in its annual Maker Festival celebrating Chinese art and entrepreneurship. The event hosted the sale of NFT-based real estate created by Chinese artist, Huang Heshan.
In the same month, SCMP launched an NFT project named ‘ARTIFACT’ which included tokenized historical moments reported by the publication from its 118- year-old archive, such as the handover of Hong Kong from the U.K. to China in 1997.
Copyright infringement in the online world has been an issue ever since the internet entered our lives — with a copy-and-paste culture, it’s never been easier to pass off a funny tweet as one’s own, upload unauthorized versions of chart-topping songs, and repurpose jaw-dropping photographs and videos.
Now nonfungible tokens have entered into the arena, a whole host of new issues have emerged. Opportunists are now tokenizing artwork without consent — and in some cases, artists haven’t realized their pieces have been plagiarized until the NFTs have been bought and sold. One attorney recently told Vice that, while creators do have protection under U.S. copyright law if their work is tokenized without consent, getting compensation could be made harder by the fact that some NFT marketplaces are less transparent than others.
There are NFT platforms that have introduced mechanisms that allow pirated art to be removed. But according to experts, taking action once unprotected digital files have been copied or downloaded is “like trying to put toothpaste back into a tube.” And to compound the problem, certain precautions that can be taken to tackle copyright infringement can have unintended consequences — censoring small creators who may be unable to prove they created an artwork because they lack an established online presence.
None of this is to say that NFT technology is inherently flawed. These hurdles are common when new concepts suddenly go mainstream. As time goes on, the industry will get better at protecting talented individuals and their works. But there’s one thing that artists can do straight away: Take a few simple steps to protect themselves from copyright infringement.
Protecting work in a digital realm
According to Unique.One, a decentralized NFT marketplace, most of the copyright infringement issues that have been brought to its attention stem back to artwork that was unprotected in the first place. A number of artists share original works with their large followers on Instagram, but these files lack the digital protection that prevent them from being copied and used in infinite ways without consent.
A strongly worded copyright notice often isn’t enough to deter bad actors — nor prove that artwork is authentic if their claims are challenged. However, there are some simple steps that are worth taking when building an online presence, and it all begins when original files are being uploaded in the first place.
Adding a visible watermark to art before sharing digital images anywhere can prove worthwhile, irrespective of whether this is on Instagram, Facebook or on your own website. If you’re especially sophisticated, you may opt for an invisible watermark at the pixel level — something that can give you an upper hand in a dispute, especially among plagiarists who may not have noticed it.
It is also possible to mint NFTs with a watermark — and add unlockable content with a high-resolution, watermark-free copy that the buyer can receive upon purchasing a token. You can also set out licensing terms in the description for your nonfungible token. A good example of this was seen when The New York Times sold a tokenized version of an article written by one of its journalists — with the newspaper clearly specifying that this NFT doesn’t purchase the copyright for the feature in question.
Keeping a digital archive of original work, along with the date it was created, can also be a powerful way of proving ownership. And, if art is published for the first time in the form of an NFT, the blockchain itself can serve as an immutable record that offers protection.
A particularly vexing issue
Unique.One is a decentralized nonprofit platform that is owned and managed by a community of passionate digital artists. They said: “It’s a sad fact that the very freedom and flexibility provided to creators by decentralized, permissionless NFT platforms can also attract abuse by bad actors. But innovation also breeds solutions. Technology can be leveraged to help creators keep control of their work.”
They stress that NFTs can also help protect artwork — especially if pieces are minted on-chain before they are distributed through other online channels. Creating an archive of provenance is essential.
While Unique.One predicts that regulatory measures and licensing regimes will evolve as the NFT space grows and matures, the platform warns that this could introduce “additional barriers and censorship hurdles for creators” — and great care should be taken to ensure that the industry doesn’t lose the distinctive attributes that made it popular in the first place.
“As with all innovative technological breakthroughs, NFTs offer exciting opportunities for creators, but along with this freedom of opportunity comes the potential for abuse by malicious actors — it’s simply the world we live in,” the project’s founders said. “Unique.One hopes that artists lean into proactivity and take steps to address the challenges brought on by innovation while enjoying the opportunity it brings.”
Learn more about Unique.One
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Italian copyright collecting agency Società Italiana degli Autori ed Editori, SIAE, has minted more than four million NFTs on the Algorand blockchain to digitally represent the rights of more than 95,000 authors.
The partnership between SIAE and Algorand started in 2019, with SIAE aiming to digitize its entire copyright database to help decentralize the management of the metadata. NFTs will eventually provide copyright owners such as authors and publishers with royalty streams to their work.
The tokenization of the articles and published works will allow the system “to transfer management directly to rights holders, who will then be able to manage directly the metadata relating to their rights,” said general manager of SIAE Gaetano Blandini
“Blockchain technology is definitely an interesting strand to continue exploring because of its transparency and efficiency — by design — features, which are fundamental for those who, like us, manage the salary of other people’s hard work.”
Chainlink to assign cancer?
Chainlink’s Variable Random Function, or VRF, will play a key role in a new conceptual NFT art experiment Project Mahin in order to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer.
The project will release 60 unique NFTs representing breasts, each of which could be unfortunate enough to “be diagnosed with breast cancer.” The VRF, will randomly assign one in eight of the NFTs cancer, representing the same odds of women who will develop the invasive cancer throughout their lives.
Those illustrations will permanently update at the time to represent a post-operation state, and the secondary sale royalties of the NFT will increase to 15%.
The project was created by artist Armaghan Fatemi and dedicated to her mom and all other women who are currently battling breast cancer:
“We created this project intending to raise awareness for breast cancer, and we are pleased to be able to contribute all royalties to Breast Cancer Now UK.”
A token column by the New York Times
A journalist from the New York Times has written an article explaining NFTs — which he then turned into the very first NFT based on a New York Times article and put it up for auction. “Why can’t a journalist join the NFT party, too?” NYT tech columnist Kevin Roose tweeted in an explainer thread
The NYT made a NFT!
My new column is about NFTs, and I also turned the column into a NFT and put it up for auction on @withFND, with proceeds going to charity.
Bid away, and you could own the first NFT in the paper’s 170-year history. https://t.co/9ItGZvID8B
— Kevin Roose (@kevinroose) March 24, 2021
The NFT is listed for auction on the Foundation marketplace with a current bid of 7 ETH. With 14 hours to go at the time of writing, the item has received bids from a dozen different people including Coin Center’s director of communication Neeraj Agrawal and music producer RAC.
It follows the conclusion of an auction of three Time Magazine covers on the NFT marketplace Superrare. Each cover just sold for between 70 to 88 ETH with a fourth NFT of the three covers together selling for 35 ETH. The listings gained considerable attention from those within the mainstream media, including founder of The Street Jim Cramer.
Artist behind Obama ‘Hope’ poster auctions NFT
Shepard Fairey, the artist behind former U.S. president Barack Obama’s “Hope” campaign poster, is selling an NFT called “Obey Ideal Power”. The sale goes live on Superrare on March 29, at 1pm EDT.
Fairey intends to use this and other artforms to “raise awareness for the important political and social issues of our time.” He suggests power is not all bad, as it can also be used to benefit and uplift people as well as oppress them. The sale is part of a collaboration between SuperRare and a company called Verisart, which provides ownership certificates for blockchain-based assets.
“We will continue hosting the Bitcoin whitepaper and won’t be silenced or intimidated. Others hosting the whitepaper should follow our lead in resisting these false allegations.”
So said Bitcoin.org, an an independent open-source project that aims to support bitcoin development, in a response on Thursday to an attempt by nChain chief scientist Craig Wright to force the site to take down its copy of the bitcoin white paper.
While bitcoin was created by the pseudonymous Satashi Nakamoto, who has yet to be identified, Wright has repeatedly made claims that he is Satoshi and, apparently contrary to the ethos of the founder, is attempting to claim he owns the copyright to bitcoin’s intellectual property.
Wright, who is a key advocate for the rival cryptocurrency bitcoin SV (for Satoshi’s vision), has now had his lawyers sent out letters to several entities seeking them to remove copies of the white paper from their websites, according to Bitcoin.org.
Wright is said to be claiming the copyright to the white paper, the “Bitcoin” title and ownership of Bitcoin.org.
“We believe these claims are without merit, and refuse to [take down the paper],” said the organization.
However, the operators of bitcoincore.org, the website for the cryptocurrency’s developer team Bitcoin Core, did take down their copy of the paper, references to it deleted and the changes merged on GitHub, according to Bitcoin.org.
“By surrendering in this way, the Bitcoin Core project has lent ammunition to Bitcoin’s enemies, engaged in self-censorship, and compromised its integrity,” said the organization.
The organization said that the bitcoin white paper was included in the original bitcoin project files and the project was published under the permissive and free MIT license by Satoshi Nakamoto. As such Bitcoin.org said “there is no doubt” it has the legal right to host the white paper.
“Furthermore, Satoshi Nakamoto has a known PGP public key, therefore it is cryptographically possible for someone to verify themselves to be Satoshi Nakamoto. Unfortunately, Craig has been unable to do this,” the post adds.
Facebook’s idea to rebrand its Libra stablecoin project to “Diem” may not be as smooth sailing as what the corporate firm had in mind.
Why Facebook may be sued
It turns out that Diem has already been taken up as a name, and it belongs to a budding fintech firm based in Europe. Founder of the fintech firm Diem, Geri Cupi, shared:
“We were flabbergasted on 1st December to find that Facebook’s Libra Foundation had chosen to rebrand to Diem…As a small startup, we are concerned that customer confusion resulting from Libra’s actions will significantly impact our growth.”
Cupi referred to Facebook’s recent move to rebrand its digital currency project to Diem. The purpose of this was to get a better chance of getting approved by regulatory authorities. The announcement was made on December 1 by Facebook, as previously, Libra faced many regulatory issues that prevented the successful launch of its native token.
Now, it turns out that Diem has already been taken up as a name and Facebook may be threatened with a copyright infringement lawsuit. The decision to sue Facebook is not an easy one to make, as the tech company may easily crush counter-rivals with its monopoly.
Diem fintech firm is also a startup, having only soft-launched in October. However, despite its new entry into the fintech industry, its social handle @diemglobal has already hit 469K followers on Instagram.
Addressing the hefty task of being legally matched with Facebook, Chris Adelsbach, a renowned Diem investor, said that it was not an easy decision to make. He shared with Sifted:
“We thought, ‘do we concede and just say ‘we’re a small company,’ or do we fight for what’s right.”
He hinted that Facebook may have used its monopoly over the tech industry to overlook the fact that Diem as a name had already been taken. He said:
“It wouldn’t take that much effort for Facebook to find out if there’s another Diem in financial services. They obviously took the view that ‘we can just crush them, we’re Facebook.”
Diem’s first move is to send Facebook a cease and desist letter.
Big Tech Grilled by US Congress
This is not the first time that Facebook comes under fire by other companies for trademark infringement. Previously, many regulatory bodies, including the US Congress, had placed Big Tech – Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook – under antitrust hearings for questionable practices the corporations have resorted to.
The US Congress has been trying to regulate the monopoly established by the tech giants and to oblige them to follow anti-competitive clauses, the dominance of the Big Tech has enabled them to “engage in a form of their own private quasi regulation that is unaccountable to anyone but themselves.”