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The Rise of Machines as Creators

Updated: Mar 4

Carolina Rambaldi is a third year student of the dual degree King’s College London – Université Paris II Panthéon-Assas in English Law and French Law. As a member of Assas Legal Innovation, Carolina is interested in legaltech, blockchain, AI, and the impact of technology on the legal field, and talks in her post below about the implications surrounding the involvements of computers in creative works.


The growing intersection between law and technology best illustrates the dynamic nature of the law, showcasing the field as not only subject to social and doctrinal change but also to innovation, in the form of technological progress. As a keen learner who, along with many other law students, spends an overwhelming amount of time in the library reading cases and articles, exploring the intersection between law and technology opened my eyes to an area of the field that is quickly expanding in the professional world, thus providing me with a fascinating view on the constant malleability of the law.

A topic that I have had the chance to delve into and that I thought would be interesting to share in this article is the growth of Artificial Intelligence through the development of “creative” computers, and the implications for copyright law.

Many of our dystopian science-fiction theories according to which machines will one day be able to rule the world are inspired by the development of machine learning software through “neural networks”. These networks enable computer programs to generate work using a thought process similar to humans. This is possible through a built-in algorithm that allows the computer to learn from data input, to evolve, and eventually, to make independent decisions through the process.

An example of what such programs are able to produce is the next Rembrandt: a new artwork generated by a computer that had analyzed thousands of works by the 17th-century Dutch artist Rembrandt. The project was sponsored by the Dutch banking group ING, in collaboration with Microsoft, J.Walter Thompson marketing consultancy, and advisors from TU Delft, The Mauritshuis and the Rembrandt House Museum.

These creations raise the issue of copyright. Indeed, creative works qualify for copyright protections if they are “original”: this is often associated with the requirement of a human author. However, copyright protection for work created by machines increasingly appears as a commercial necessity, as the companies selling the work have invested in the system and will probably perceive it as unfair to not receive compensation for its distribution and use.

This issue remains unresolved in many countries not amenable to non-human copyright. The UK is at the forefront of legislative change through section 9(3) Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, which creates an exception to all human authorship requirements by recognising the work that goes into creating a program capable of generating the works, even if the creative spark is undertaken by a machine.

The question remains as to whom the law should consider to be the person to receive compensation for the use of the work. Should it be the programmer or the user of the program? This question may be equivalent to wondering whether the maker of a pen or the writer deserves the credit for the work produced. Copyright for work produced on Microsoft Word lies with users, not Microsoft. However, the question is relevant when dealing with AI: when using text-generating machines and neural networks, users may only have to press one button to produce their work. The nuance present in this question illustrates the overall intricacy that comes with the growth of AI. As a law student, reflecting on these issues and how they should be regulated enabled me to participate in the process of adopting AI as an inevitable consequence of progress, an essential move in order to embrace all its potential benefits and curtail its risks.

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