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Licensing and AI-generated Content
The Crossroads Of Artistic And Artificial
by: Jon Robinson | July 24, 2023

Navigating the uncharted territory of AI-generated content copyright and licensing

With the arrival of generative AI (artificial intelligence), copyright, art, content and business could be changed forever. As the AI era begins, machines will soon approach human reasoning skills to start meaningful conversations, produce human-like language and unleash other unimaginable possibilities.

Does AI dream of IP infringement?

Using licensed content as input to AI will be where most of the money will change hands. Existing popular content is the clearest indicator of what new content will remain most popular. AI makes that connection much faster than humans can.

Successful AI tools will include massive content and data input and can use licensing trends and history to determine what to create. It remains to be seen if that creation will ever be protected or licensable.

There are 2 IP and copyright challenges:

  • Protecting existing intellectual property (IP) from infringement
    Any trademarked or copyrighted content can be used as input to an AI tool. If the output is identifiable based on the protected input, how do IP owners seek damages and/or cease-and-desist orders? If the derivative work is not materially different from the original IP, then proving the infringement and taking action is easy. AI will generate more subtle derivatives that might not be legally considered different enough to preclude legal action.
  • Enforcing existing restrictions on IP and protecting a brand’s image and goodwill
    Every brand has a charter and purpose. As a brand owner, you must determine how to prevent AI tools from denigrating your brand through “disallowed” usages. Without an agreement that dictates what can be done with the IP, there is nothing to stop an AI tool from generating an output that directly conflicts with everything the brand stands for.

Risky business

There are few “trade secrets” in the licensing industry, but there is an abundance of imagery, logos, and entertainment-based IP. The most significant risk is a misrepresentation of the IP. When you get into the markets where trade secrets, personal and business data, financial data, technology secrets and more are in the mix, the risks are many and potentially dangerous and could include:

  • Misused medical advancements and discoveries leading to human peril
  • Technical advances in the wrong hands yielding devastating results (something as common as incorrect technology used in braking systems for cars, leading to unsafe vehicles)
  • Misused confidential information resulting in physical harm to people

From a financial perspective, businesses must invest in protecting their interests related to AI now. The issues are surfacing at breakneck speed, so no one has all the answers yet, but having a team, plan and resources in place to tackle the problems as they arise should be a common concern for all businesses.

The need for speed

To stay ahead of the lightning-fast growth of AI-generated content, you’ll need to fuel up with the right solutions to help you:

  • Manage multiple rights and complex contracts
  • Monetize the IP
  • Monitor compliance
  • Streamline processes
  • Gather real-time data

You will also need help to determine when, where and how your content can be used based on tracking trademark registrations, existing licenses, the historical performance of the IP in specific markets and the quality of partner relationships.

With different configurations, rules and data defaults, you can isolate the business elements more specific to AI-generated content in the same way you can differentiate rules and practices between copyrighted IP versus trademarked IP.

AI didn’t exist at the time many original registrations or protections were secured, so if there are any registrations or protections in place that do not cover AI, you must seek out and secure an update to include the use of protected IP in AI, in any of its many forms.

The brave new world of AI

Moving forward, we must be mindful of the full potential of AI and the need for ethical oversight. As time passes, rules and regulations will catch up — and we want them to.

People will benefit in the long run by making it a point to determine whether an AI-generated product they purchase was “legally” created. This will be similar to people sharing digital music files quickly and without financial implications. AI should be used to spur development and as a positive force for a better future.