Redefining Copyright in the Digital Age

We live in a world where intellectual property (IP) stands as the lifeblood of businesses worldwide. Whether it’s cutting-edge technology, innovative designs, or brand identities, these are precious assets that need to be fiercely protected. Yet these are also the very things that are getting harder and harder to safeguard.

Patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets – none of the four pillars of intellectual property are exempt from the emerging threats in our era of technological acceleration.

Copyright in the age of AI-Generated Art

Just look at the realm of AI-generated art. In 2022, Jason Allen’s victory in the Colorado State Fair’s art competition sent shockwaves through the art community. His winning piece, “Théâtre D’opéra Spatial,” was generated using AI, prompting a debate on whether AI-generated works can be considered “art.”

Allen’s creative process was unconventional. He used a language-based AI, Midjourney, inputting specific phrases to influence lighting, perspective, and composition. After iterating his prompts over 900 times, he selected the top three renditions for submission.

Navigating murky waters

AI-generated art transcends the boundaries of the art world. Writers, journalists, and corporations are also utilizing AI, raising concerns about the impact on creative professions. This shift challenges the conventional notion of artists as the sole creators, blurring the line between art and technology.

The problem of consent

The absence of consent is a major issue for anyone who shares their work online. AI image generators, like Midjourney and Stability.AI, have attracted over 10 million users since their public launch in 2022 but have yet to address pressing ethical and legal questions. These AI systems are trained by “scraping” billions of images from the internet, including works by individuals or brands who never consented to such use.

The battle against piracy

Lawsuits against AI companies are emerging as creators seek to protect their rights. Many digital artists rely on selling the usage rights of their works to make a living, and the rise of AI-generated art threatens their very livelihoods.

Artists like Sarah Andersen, Kelly McKernan, and Karla Ortiz have sued companies like Stability.AI and Midjourney, alleging copyright infringement. Getty Images, a major media company, has also filed a similar lawsuit. These cases challenge the notion of what can be copyrighted, especially when it comes to style.

In response, the U.S. Copyright Office (USCO) has issued guidelines on AI-generated works, stating that AI-generated images from text prompts cannot be copyrighted. This decision has implications for artists’ ability to demand compensation from AI companies.

Intellectual property knows no borders

As generative AI continues to evolve, lawyers all over the world are closely monitoring regulatory shifts. In Vietnam, we share this global vigilance, recognizing the necessity of harmonizing AI-related copyright laws on a global scale. Given the international nature of these platforms, the precedents set on the global stage will impact our work and lives back home.

Engage fiercely and swiftly

Intellectual property protection cannot be an afterthought, it’s a business imperative. Whether you are a C-suite executive, business owner, or digital creator, I would encourage you to face the unknown challenges head on. Vigorous enforcement can deter potential violators and fortify your IP assets. Let’s stay vigilant and adaptable in this digital age.