Artificial Intelligence and Intellectual Property: Mind the Machine!

In a world that is revealing itself to be distinctly devoid of any natural (human) intelligence, artificial intelligence might well turn out to be less scary than we imagined it to be.

Indeed, some months ago, when a student of mine asked me if I wasn’t worried about machines taking over, I quipped that I was more worried about Trump taking over. And if Trump did come to pass as President, tis’ only appropriate that machines take us over, I noted! For we’ve demonstrated ourselves to be an utterly stupid species. What other will destroy its own home (this blessed planet called earth) and kill/maim its very own? And then go looking for other planets to poke and plunder?

I thought I might get a chuckle or two from this Trump tribute that I painstakingly wove into a recent piece on AI and IP law for the SCRIPTed, a leading IP and tech law journal. Unfortunately, matters of political propriety demanded that it be edited out. But for those interested, there are still some spicy nuggets in this unconventional format. But first some background:

Genesis of the AI Script:

As some of you may know, I’ve been associated with IDIA, a programme that seeks to promote access to legal education for the underprivileged. We’ve been constantly thinking through ways in which to make legal learning more fun and engaging for our IDIA scholars…in our bid to convert them to CHAMPS.

Being bored out of my wits doing regular law review pieces, I decided to experiment with a mock court type script, involving lawyers, judges and even an amicus. Given my near obsessive fascination with Artificial Intelligence (AI) issues in the last year or so, I decided to execute this through the AI frame.

Once I had a script ready, I piloted it through a course on AI and IP law at the Institute of Law, Nirma University, where I hold a honorary position. Students enrolled in the course donned the robe of counsels, amicus etc with great aplomb and energy, converting this spectacle to a greatly enriching experience (at least for me personally). I played Judge Jurix, trying hard to rein in meandering moments, whilst providing enough leeway to those that creatively stretched the laws of logic.

Thanks to this stellar bunch of students, the script had a fairly decent run.

I later heard of the SCRIPTed writing competition on AI and IP law and decided to give it a shot! It came as a huge surprise to me that SCRIPTed not only accommodated this deviant script, but applauded it as well…by anointing it as the second best entry. For those interested, the entire piece as published on Script-ed (in a mock court style dialogue format) is here.

And here is the link to all the other thoughtful pieces in this wonderful volume. Including the winning entry by a team of researchers from University of Bournemouth: Marcella Favale, Neil McDonald, Shamal Faily and Christos Gatzidis. Their incisively insightful paper, “Human Aspects in Digital Rights Management: The Perspective of Content Developers”, reports results of the MADRGIAL project that is “aimed at understanding how game developers make sense of Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology when developing video games, and explored the complex perspectives of content producers, users and legislators”.

The prize for the best student entry went to Erica Fraser’s paper, “Computers as Inventors – Legal and Policy Implications of Artificial Intelligence on Patent Law”, where she skilfully traverses the knotty issues thrown up when AIs become inventors.

In his editorial piece, Prof Burkhard Schafer (a leading scholar on AI, robotics and law and one of the judges for our competition) discusses the the winning entries in brief and introduces the special edition of SCRIPTed thus:

“Artificial Intelligence (AI) impacts on copyright and other IP law in two ways. First, human creators are increasingly assisted by intelligent technology, co-creating works with (partially) autonomous machines, or in some cases leaving the creative process entirely to software programs….Are traditional IP law concepts such as “inventiveness”, “original” and indeed “creator” still appropriate for such an environment?

This special edition of SCRIPTed contains the winner of the essay prize competition…“How will Artificial Intelligence change the practice of Intellectual Property law?”…

I’m delighted that these three excellent papers have also found a home with SCRIPTed. SCRIPTed was launched in 2002 as part of the AHRC-funded SCRIPT project on IP, IT and Medical law at the University of Edinburgh. Its role from the beginning was also to promote our vision of open access, creative commons-enabled academic publishing – long before misguided government science policies led to a deluge of predatory “open access” online “journals” that essentially charge inexperienced authors for putting their papers on a blog.”

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