"A few months back, I got added to a group chat of Hollywood
writers/actors/directors, all seeking to understand what the fuck was going on
with AI. And one topic that came up consistently early on was “will copyright
protect us” and, if not, “how can copyright be changed to better protect us?”
I’ve already made it clear that I’m skeptical of the various copyright lawsuits
against AI companies, claiming that the training of their LLMs violated
copyright law. While there are some arguments against it, it seems to me that
training is the equivalent of learning from, and we’d never say that reading a
book and learning from it violates copyright law. Similarly, various lawsuits
about search engines and book scanning suggest a (correct) recognition that
scanning copyright covered works to create new (even commercial) products is
However, I’m somewhat perplexed at the focus on copyright law as the tool that
many people want to use to “fix” what they insist is a problem.
I fear it’s a symptom of Hollywood spending decades falsely convincing people
that copyright was the only tool out there for “protecting artists.” Of course,
this was always a myth. Copyright was created from the beginning as a tool to
protect the middlemen and gatekeepers, not the artists and creators themselves.
But, one of Hollywood’s greatest tricks has been convincing the creators, whom
Hollywood itself is exploiting, that the copyright tool they’re using for said
exploitation is in the interest of artists.
So, it’s no wonder that many artists instinctively reach towards copyright as
the tool they are focused on in order to “deal with” questions around AI. And
that leads to confusing nonsense hearings, such as the one held last week by
the Senate Judiciary Committee, focused on copyright and AI. That hearing (as
too many congressional hearings are these days) was full of nonsense, like
Senator Marsha Blackburn claiming that “fair use” really means a “fairly useful
way to steal.” No, Senator, as the Supreme Court has made clear, fair use is
the only way in which copyright law can coexist with the 1st Amendment and is a
fundamental speech right. Which is something a senator should understand.
But the focus on copyright, again, seems misplaced. As I explained in that
group chat I was brought into, creators expecting copyright to protect them are
in for a world of hurt. Because even if Congress goes and changes copyright
law, it will be changed (as always) to favor the interests of the studios, the
labels, and the publishers, who have always made sure that copyright works to
their advantage over those of the creators and (especially) over the public
(despite the Constitution requiring any copyright law to benefit the public
first and foremost)."
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics