Do robots deserve copyrights?

Do robots deserve copyrights?

11 July 2017

Legal News

Remember Rosie, The Jetson’s maid? Remember when she fell in love with the handyman’s robot, Mac? How about Futurama’s Bender? He wasn’t as cute as Rosie, but was he as human? Throughout history, humanity has gone to extremes to think about the many ways in which robots can become more and more human. The interest and obsession in recreating humanity and in separating man from machine dates back from way before people thought robots could be real. Meanwhile, now we have a cute little humanoid that plays soccer and shows us the evolution of dance. We also have robots far more complex than that. How about the japanese robot that wrote a novel? Does the robot deserve the copyrights?

Now, the title was co-written, granted. But, what if it hadn’t been? What if we got to a point where robots were so complex that we could mechanically mimic the learning curve humans experience since birth? There is a whole branch of philosophy that specializes on theorizing about artificial intelligence. John Rogers Searle, a philosopher from University of California, Berkeley has proposed his theory that “the appropriately programmed computer with the right inputs and outputs would thereby have a mind in exactly the same sense human beings have minds”.

But, this goes into a complex situation way beyond copyrights. Rocío Perez, 3ANTS‘ in-house expert in Intellectual Property Law, states that robots that are able to create things from machine learning can do so because the programmers have set up the code lines that state the way in which the robot learns. She explains that they are who deserve the rights to the things their creations design. “These robots have been able to create these new things because of the specific programming used by the coders behind them. It is they who deserve the credit.”

Alejandro Gonzalez, 3ANTS‘ Artificial Intelligence expert agrees, from the technological point of view, with our lawyer. He claims that, even if artificial intelligence were considered autonomous, it would be an employee of the company that owns it. Therefore, all intellectual property created under request of its employers would rightfully belong to the company. Once a company purchases the robot from its creators, all the rights and responsibility over it are transferred to the buyer. This includes the merchandising rights over everything the robot creates and all the liability over everything the robot destroys.

Ultimately, the law is pretty strict on this area, since only persons are allowed to hold property. In this sense, the first step to take for robots to own copyrights, would be to declare artificial intelligence as a person. However, inspite of all the advances technology is making, the question of whether robots are persons or not seems pretty far from being a relevant issue to discuss.

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