Lerner & Weiss: AI in the workplace

AI in the Workplace: Copyright Law Essentials for California Employer Defense Attorneys

In the last year, the widespread adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) in the workplace has forced California employer defense attorneys to navigate uncharted legal waters, particularly in copyright law. The rapid integration of AI technologies into everyday business operations has raised many questions about the ownership and protection of intellectual property (IP) rights, particularly when it comes to copyright law. 

With the U.S. Copyright Office grappling with the challenges posed by AI-generated works and new legislation, such as Representative Adam Schiff’s proposed Generative AI Copyright Disclosure Act, gaining traction, employers and their legal counsel need to stay informed about the latest developments in this field. Lerner and Weiss, a California law firm, is at the forefront of this evolving legal landscape, providing expert guidance to employers navigating the intersection of AI and copyright law.

The U.S. Copyright Office’s Stance on AI-Generated Works

At the heart of the debate surrounding AI and copyright law lies the U.S. Copyright Office’s longstanding position that only “original works of authorship” created by human beings are eligible for copyright protection. Lerner and Weiss outlined in a recent blog post, “The U.S. Copyright Office position is that the Copyright Act provisions governing a copyright’s lifecycle— including its creation, conveyance, duration, and renewal—show that a human must be involved in authoring the work.”

This position is rooted in various provisions of the Copyright Act that presume human authorship, such as the requirement for a written and signed agreement for copyright transfers and licenses, the author’s right to terminate grants, and the measurement of copyright duration based on the author’s life and death. Moreover, U.S. Supreme Court case law has consistently emphasized the importance of human involvement in creating copyrightable works, focusing on the creative choices and control exercised by the human author.

The Complexity of AI Authorship

As AI technologies become more sophisticated, the question of authorship in the context of AI-generated works has become increasingly complex. If AI-generated works were deemed eligible for copyright protection, determining who should be considered the rightful owner of such works would be a daunting task. Would it be the developer of the AI technology, the owner of the device running the AI program, or the individual inputting parameters and directing the AI’s output? Each party could potentially stake a claim, creating a legal dilemma for employers and their defense attorneys to navigate.

To address these concerns, the U.S. Copyright Office has launched a comprehensive initiative to examine the impact of generative AI on copyright law and policy. As part of this ongoing study, the Office will publish a series of reports analyzing the implications of AI for copyright and making recommendations for potential legislative or regulatory action. Additionally, the Office plans to update the Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices to provide further guidance and examples related to registering works containing AI-generated material.

The Generative AI Copyright Disclosure Act

In response to the growing concerns surrounding AI and copyright law, Representative Adam Schiff has proposed the Generative AI Copyright Disclosure Act in response to the growing concerns surrounding AI and copyright law. This groundbreaking legislation aims to increase transparency in using copyrighted material for training generative AI tools. Under the proposed act, tech companies must notify the Register of Copyrights before releasing an AI tool and disclose any copyrighted material used in the training process.

The act has garnered significant support from industry groups, such as SAG-AFTRA and the Writer’s Guild of America, who view it as a crucial step in protecting the rights and contributions of creators in the age of AI. As Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA’s chief negotiator and national executive director, aptly stated, “That’s why human creative content—intellectual property—must be protected. SAG-AFTRA fully supports the Generative AI Copyright Disclosure Act, as this legislation is an important step in ensuring technology serves people and not the other way around.”

Navigating the Legal Landscape with Lerner and Weiss

For California employers and their defense attorneys, navigating the evolving legal landscape surrounding AI and copyright law requires a proactive and informed approach. Staying abreast of the latest developments, such as the U.S. Copyright Office’s ongoing initiative and the proposed Generative AI Copyright Disclosure Act, is crucial to safeguarding intellectual property rights and effectively mitigating potential legal risks.

This is where Lerner and Weiss’s expertise proves invaluable. As a leading California law firm, Lerner and Weiss deeply understand the unique challenges posed by AI-generated works. Their team of experienced attorneys can provide employers with the guidance needed to develop robust IP strategies that account for the complexities of AI technologies in the workplace.

By working closely with Lerner and Weiss, employers can effectively navigate issues such as ownership, licensing, and infringement in AI-generated works. The firm’s attorneys can assist in implementing clear policies and procedures governing the use of AI, providing training to employees on IP rights, and conducting regular audits to identify and address potential infringement risks.

As AI transforms the workplace, California employer defense attorneys must be prepared to navigate the complex legal terrain surrounding copyright law and AI-generated works. By staying informed about the latest developments, such as the U.S. Copyright Office’s ongoing initiative and the proposed Generative AI Copyright Disclosure Act, and seeking expert guidance from experienced IP attorneys like those at Lerner and Weiss, employers can effectively safeguard their intellectual property rights and mitigate potential legal risks.