The sincerest form of flattery?

Written by Tom Synott | January 30, 2023


Artificial Intelligence (‘AI’) remains a hot topic, with recent developments touted as being set to revolutionize everything from how we interact with each other to the ways in which we tackle global issues like sustainability and climate change.

That is not to say that the proliferation of AI is without controversy: the idea of machines with human-level intelligence has been a common theme of dystopian fiction since as far back as the late 1800s and not everybody is convinced that it will be a force for good.

The advent of AI also clearly poses significant issues for intellectual property rights; both in terms of authorship of a particular work and who is liable in the event of its infringement.

Recent developments

Against this backdrop, it is perhaps no surprise that this week has seen the launch of the first major court case dealing with AI and IP rights: a series of artists in the US have launched a ground-breaking class action lawsuit against DeviantArt, Midjourney and Stability AI, three companies who all provide AI-powered image generators (websites that generate images from other people’s art based on text prompts provided by the user).

In their complaint, the artists allege that the defendants have collectively drawn on millions of artistic works available via the web which is then stored and combined to create a new image based on the user’s exact prompt. The case is interesting from a legal perspective because the images being produced are clearly not copies of the originals, they are however combinations of multiple images (potentially in the thousands). Accordingly, establishing an exact ‘author’ capable of pursuing infringement becomes problematic.

It remains to be seen how the courts will approach this issue and, who knows, whether they themselves may be assisted by AI at some point in the future!

Briffa comment

This is an exciting and rapidly developing area of law, one that Briffa is well placed to assist with having assisted clients in the technology sector and beyond for over 25 years: if you need any further information in this regard, please do feel free to get in touch with us using the form below.

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