Hollywood Studios' AI Proposal Puts Screenwriters and Copyright Laws in the Spotlight

NNicholas August 24, 2023 2:11 AM

As Hollywood experiences a double strike halting film and TV production, studios propose the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in crafting screenplays. This move puts screenwriters and copyright laws center stage, as studios look to leverage AI for generating scripts while navigating copyright restrictions.

Hollywood studios propose AI in scriptwriting

In the wake of a film and TV production halt due to a double strike, Hollywood studios are showing interest in integrating artificial intelligence into the scriptwriting process. The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) has spoken in favor of utilizing AI tools such as ChatGPT, which can efficiently generate loglines, pitch ideas, and storylines. This proposal, however, doesn't intend to undermine the value of human scribes, rather it seeks to incorporate technological advancement into the creative process.

A key component missing in the AMPTP's proposal is instructions or guidelines on how writers can utilize AI-created content under the present copyright laws. As of now, work solely created by AI does not qualify for copyright protection. For an AI-produced script to be copyrightable, a human writer must substantially revise it, raising concerns among writers about their role in relation to AI technology.

Studios eye intellectual property rights of AI-created works

By keeping AI in the game, studios might be aiming to cash in on the intellectual property rights associated with works created by AI tools. If human writers touch or modify content produced by AI, typical copyright protections come into play. This strategy seems to serve the studios' interest in maximizing the potential of both human creativity and AI technology, but it raises ethical and legal questions about the ownership and exploitation of AI-generated content.

Most AI-generated works aren't copyrightable

Current regulations by the U.S. Copyright Office assert that AI-generated works, in most cases, do not qualify for copyright protection. Protection can only be granted to works that reflect human creativity, effectively excluding AI as a non-human entity. A work containing AI-produced material can only support a copyright if a human has selected or arranged it in a sufficiently creative way that makes the resulting work an original piece of human authorship.

Studios might be able to bypass potential legal battles over rights to iconic franchises by holding onto the intellectual property rights of AI-generated works. Depending on how copyright law evolves, studios might be able to list themselves as the owner of material under the work-for-hire doctrine, where the author of a work is the party that hired the individual rather than the person who actually created it. This, however, only applies if human writers significantly alter an AI-produced work. In such instances, only the human-authored aspects of the work will be granted protection.

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