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The protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) has been put into the collective consciousness, but if AI-generated content is copyrightable and the question of who owns the AI work still remains contentious.

In September, Feilin issued a huge data report to examine judicial cases from the entertainment industry on its official accounts on China’s major social media program WeChat, which, as it claimed, was reposted the following day by Baidu’s Baijiahao news stage after deleting the byline and the previous paragraph.

The defendant contended in court Tuesday that the report was a work by statistical data analysis software instead of an original creation, which didn’t belong to the plaintiff’s intellectual property and was thus excluded by the law.

“This is a new case in the area of copyright protection, and the court needs to deal with many complex issues, such as the ownership and copyright of a work not created by a natural person,” said the presiding judge Lu Zhengxin.

Baidu’s dilemma highlights the murky landscape of IPR protection in the electronic age, triggering a heated discussion across the country.

A comment by a microblog Sina Weibo user.

“AI-created works are copyrightable, but their copyrights should belong to the AI designers”

Another Weibo user said,

“The copyrights of AI-generated works should be separated according to the efforts made by the stakeholders. For example, the AI designers can account for about 80 percent of the copyrights, while the users, who just input information such as keywords and data, make up a smaller proportion”

China’s copyright law prescribes that first works by Chinese citizens, legal entities or some other associations are copyrightable, meaning that a natural person or a legal person can enjoy copyrights, and AI is obviously excluded, according to Zhao Zhanling, researcher in the Center for IPR Studies of China University of Political Science and Law.

According to law specialist Xiong Qi, the very important criterion to ascertain whether a job copyrightable is its creativity and if the material from AI has anything to do with it.

Li Chunguang, manager of Yunnan Lingyun law firm in southwest China, echoes Xiong’s view, stating that AI-generated work is excluded from the present copyright law regardless of the point of view of subject matter or the creativity of work.

Hunting the keyword “AI” and “copyrights” in China Judgements Online, a site which publishes conclusions made by China’s Supreme People’s Court, we could only find 13 documents, none of which are all about whether AI-generated work is copyrightable, Li said. “It is thus tough to find responses from legal precedent.”

“As a new scenario, it’s more importance as a future reference, particularly if AI is growing so fast in the present society,” he added.

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