On Copyright Infringement and AI

On Copyright Infringement and AI


  • Copyright legislation safeguards the creative production of a variety of artists and grants them a set of exclusive rights. However, with the aid of several exceptions provided by copyright law, these exclusive rights are balanced with those of the users of such works, including other artists who might want to add to or comment on them.
  • Different jurisdictions approach exceptions in different ways. While India adopts a hybrid form of exception where fair dealing with copyrighted work is excluded for some defined uses under Section 52(1)(a) of the Copyright Act 1957, the United States takes an open-ended approach that does not establish exemptions in advance.
  • The recent Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Inc. v. Goldsmith et al. judgement by the U.S. Supreme Court has made the process of becoming protected from copyright infringement responsibilities even more unpredictable.

Copyright Infringement

  • When someone else’s intellectual property is used, reproduced, distributed, or used as the basis for a derivative work without the owner’s consent, this is known as copyright infringement. 
  • It is an infringement of the exclusive rights provided by intellectual property law to the copyright holder.
  • Examples of copyright infringement include:
      • Reproducing and distributing copyrighted works (such as books, music, movies, or software) without the owner’s consent is copyright infringement.
      • Sharing and uploading protected content online without the required authorizations.

Points to Ponder:

  • By guaranteeing them exclusive rights over their creative output, copyright law safeguards artists.
  • Controlling the replication and alteration of their work is one of these exclusive rights.
  • To strike a balance between the rights of creators and users of creative works, copyright law also contains exceptions.
  • Different jurisdictions approach exceptions in different ways. Others, like the United States, have an open-ended approach, while some take an enumerated exception approach.
  • The aim and nature of the use, the type of copyrighted work, the amount used, and the effect on the market are the four elements that U.S. courts take into account when evaluating fair use.
  • In fair use scenarios, the idea of “transformative use” is essential.
  • The Andy Warhol Foundation lawsuit featured a disagreement about copyright infringement between photographer Lynn Goldsmith and the foundation.
  • The Andy Warhol Foundation first won the case because the district court decided that the artist’s work was transformative and qualified as fair use.
  • The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit overturned this judgement, holding that Warhol’s usage did not meet the requirements for fair use.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court heard the case before rendering a decision.
  • The majority of judges concluded that the first factor of fair use may not support a fair use interpretation unless there are other justifications for copying in cases where the original work and the secondary work serve comparable goals and the secondary use is commercial.
  • The court rejected the fair use claim, concluding that Warhol’s adaptations and Goldsmith’s photographs served similar ends.
  • The minority view emphasised the value of artistic advancement and urged for a more expansive definition of transformative use.
  • The decision might have an impact on generative AI tools because courts might be less inclined to view similar works produced by AI as fair use.
  • The majority’s assessment of the usage’s commercial nature may depart from the widely held belief that fair use cannot be disproved by commercial use alone.
  • Considering that Indian copyright law has a distinct system of exceptions, the judgement may not have a significant influence there.
  • However, the U.S. Supreme Court’s observations may be convincing in fairness evaluations in fair dealing cases in India.
  • As trial courts apply their ideas to subsequent instances, it will become more apparent how much of an Influence the majority or minority opinion had on the U.S. ruling.