SpicyIP Tidbit: Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry clarifies Current IPR Regime Sufficient for AI Works Protection


In response to a series of unstarred questions regarding copyright infringement by generative AI, directed towards the Minister of Commerce and Industry, Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, Shri. Som Parkash, the Minister clarified that the existing IPR regime is well-equipped to protect Artificial Intelligence (AI)-generated works, thus indicating no necessity to establish a separate category of rights.

The Current Regime is Sufficient to Address AI Innovations

The unstarred question in the Rajya Sabha requested clarification on three main concerns:

  1. The government’s response to the recommendations in the 161st report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee for the establishment of a separate category of rights for AI and related innovations within the Indian IPR regime.
  2. Whether the government plans to amend the Copyright Act of 1957 to update copyright laws to cover AI-generated content.
  3. Whether the government has taken any steps to address concerns raised by creative writers and artists in their lawsuits against AI-powered Large Language Models, especially regarding issues such as the source of training, systematic theft, violation of moral rights, threat to livelihoods, and royalty payment.

In response, the Minister stated that Copyright and Related rights in India currently offer exclusive rights to legal entities for a defined period and sufficiently enable protection against infringement and royalty collection for them. The response further states that the existing legal framework efficiently protects AI-generated works and India, as a member of major international conventions, adequately safeguards rights through Copyright Law and Patent systems, eliminating the need for separate AI-related rights. Given that the Copyright Act, 1957 grants exclusive economic rights to owners, obliging users of Generative AI for commercial purposes to seek permission unless exceptions apply under Section 52, the government is not considering amendment of laws regarding AI-generated content. This discourse ends with pointing out that since enforcement of IPR is the responsibility of rights holders there are civil and criminal remedies available for infringement as well as digital circumvention, the law is good as is.

Is It Though?

Despite the Minister’s assertion of sufficiency, several posts on this blog have repeatedly and rightly questioned the adequacy of the existing regime in the past (discussed here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). The recommendation from the 161st Parliamentary Report to “create a separate category of rights for AI and AI-related works” holds significance, given the increasing prevalence of AI-generated content in our daily lives. Concerns persist as were regarding the literal structure of Section 16 of the Act, which stipulates that “no person” shall be entitled to copyright protection except in accordance with the provisions of the Act.

The Indian courts have shown proactive measures in restraining the misuse of AI tools for copyright infringement. For instance, in the case of Anil Kapoor v. Simply Life India (discussed here), the court issued an injunction against the use of AI to create fake, morphed content for commercial purposes. It’s also important to note that past rulings by the Calcutta High Court and Delhi High Court have found websites/platforms streaming copyrighted songs for profit not to be covered under Section 52(1)(a)(i) of the Act so as to protect individual personality rights. By imputing a similar logic, not obtaining licenses for uses such as training of GenAI systems by developers could also be considered commercial exploitation and might not qualify as fair dealing. 

While the need for legislative changes to keep pace with rapid technological evolution has been acknowledged by Indian courts, the establishment of liability for copyright infringement by AI works appears weak in India, as pointed out by Varsha here. Currently, responsibility for infringement committed by AI often falls on the terms of use provided by private Gen AI players. While ChatGPT’s Terms of Use and other AI platforms place the burden of license compliance on the user, enforcement may be lacking in India. Varsha suggests imposing requirements on developers to ensure AI development respects the exclusive rights of human creators in training datasets, and users should also be obligated to ensure compliance with relevant laws.

Considering these factors, completely dismissing the idea of a specialized regime to address copyright protection for AI innovations may not be in our best interest.

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