US Congress Introduces Generative AI Copyright Disclosure Act

US Congress Introduces Generative AI Copyright Disclosure Act

A new bill introduced in the United States Congress aims to address growing concerns surrounding the use of copyrighted material by artificial intelligence (AI) companies in training their generative AI models. The legislation, known as the Generative AI Copyright Disclosure Act, was proposed by Adam Schiff, a Democratic congressman from California, as a response to the increasing legal battles and government investigations regarding the potential illegal use of copyrighted works by major AI firms.

The bill seeks to compel AI companies to disclose the copyrighted material they utilize to train their generative AI systems, which are capable of creating text, images, music, or video in response to user prompts. Under the proposed legislation, companies would be required to submit any copyrighted works present in their training datasets to the Register of Copyrights prior to the public release of their AI tools. Failure to comply with these requirements could result in financial penalties for the companies involved.

Adam Schiff emphasized the importance of balancing the potential of AI with the need for ethical guidelines and protections. He stated, "AI has the disruptive potential of changing our economy, our political system, and our day-to-day lives. We must balance the immense potential of AI with the crucial need for ethical guidelines and protections."

The introduction of this bill comes amidst a flurry of legal actions and investigations into whether major AI companies have unlawfully utilized copyrighted material in developing their AI technologies. Prominent AI companies such as OpenAI have faced lawsuits over their alleged use of copyrighted works to build tools like ChatGPT. Notably, both comedian Sarah Silverman and media outlet The New York Times have filed copyright infringement claims against OpenAI.

While AI companies have denied any wrongdoing, arguing that their use of copyrighted material falls under fair use, the legal implications of these claims pose a significant challenge to copyright law. OpenAI and other companies have hired top lawyers to defend against over a dozen major lawsuits. In a submission to a UK government committee, lawyers for OpenAI asserted that "legally, copyright law does not forbid training" and emphasized the essential role of copyrighted works in the functionality of their AI tools.

Despite the legal disputes, AI companies have continued to expand the capabilities of their generative AI technologies. However, this expansion has raised concerns among entertainment industry workers about the potential threat to artists' rights. In response, over 200 high-profile musical artists recently released an open letter calling for increased protections against AI and urging companies not to develop tools that could undermine or replace musicians and songwriters.

The support for the Generative AI Copyright Disclosure Act extends beyond individual artists, with various entertainment industry organizations and unions endorsing the proposed legislation. The Recording Industry Association of America, Professional Photographers of America, Directors Guild of America, and the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists have all voiced their support for the bill.

Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the national executive director and chief negotiator of SAG-AFTRA, emphasized the importance of protecting intellectual property, stating, "Everything generated by AI ultimately originates from a human creative source. That’s why human creative content–intellectual property–must be protected."

The introduction of the Generative AI Copyright Disclosure Act represents a significant step towards addressing the complex legal and ethical issues surrounding the use of copyrighted material in AI development. If passed, the legislation would impose greater transparency requirements on AI companies and provide valuable insights into their data practices. Additionally, it could pave the way for more robust protections for artists' rights in the rapidly evolving landscape of AI technology.

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