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copyright; Artificial Intelligence; civil procedure; intellectual property


Many scholars have posited whether a computer possessing Artificial Intelligence (AI) could be considered an author as defined per the Copyright Act of 1976. What was once a thought experiment is now becoming reality. To date, scholarship has focused primarily been on whether an AI meets the requirements of authorship from a purely objective legal framework or whether an AI could be an author based on the doctrines of incentives, independent creation, and creativity.

However, a burden inherent in the rights and liabilities of authorship is the ability to be held liable if that author’s expressive work is infringing on another’s. A cause of action is meaningless if a copyright owner cannot enforce it by suing the infringer or if the infringer is judgement-proof. Thus, when contemplating whether an emancipated AI—or any non-human—can be an author under the Copyright Act, part of that examination should be whether the AI which created the work can sue or be sued for infringement.

This article considers issues from the theoretical, like civil procedure and remedies, to the practical, such as legal representation and discovery. How is an AI served with a lawsuit? What would be an adequate, enforceable remedy for an AI’s infringement? Is an AI even bound by our laws? Additional questions—and procedural barriers—are raised when considering other roles an AI might play in an infringement action: as a witness, a co-party, or even a plaintiff seeking to protect its own creative expression.

This morass of legal headaches goes beyond any doctrinal issues regarding authorship, and provide ample reason to keep legal authorship in the hands of humans or entities controlled by humans—at least until legal procedure catches up to technological realities and possibilities for litigation that AI parties present.