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34 Looming Issues between Artificial Intelligence and Intellectual Property

by | Feb 12, 2019 | Technology Trends

The main purpose of intellectual property law is to encourage and protect human ingenuity.

For this reason, intellectual property has become a continually evolving form of public policy where the rights associated with human creativity necessarily have to change along with our “tools of creation.”

However, as we enter the age of artificial intelligence, we have moved from an era of change to an era of disruption, where we now face some challenging times ahead.

It occurred to me that we will soon be able to create 3D images of any person from online photos. AI systems will be able to scan online photos of any individual and use the two dimensional information to auto-generate three digital models.

Thinking through this, these 3D models can take the form of holograms, videos, mixed reality, animations, physical sculptures, and even future algorithms for human cloning.

Making a statue will be as simple as feeding the digital model into a 3D printer to produce a physical sculpture.

Over time these models will become more lifelike and can be inserted into a variety of scenes such as playing sports, fighting battles, or something gruesome like killing people or animals.

The potential for fake news is off the charts.

That’s right, any person will run the risk of having their life turned upside down by a set of compelling images that leave all remnants of truth far behind.

The art world is filled with colorful people who are often rewarded for pushing the limits and creating shock value to sell whatever they’re selling. This could become an enormously problematic issue.

Who owns the copyright of a photograph?

The wildlife photographer who snaps the photo can claim ownership when a website publishes the photo without his permission. Under U.S. law, the copyright of a photograph is the property of the person who presses the shutter on the camera — not the person who owns the camera, and not even the person in the photo.

Yet, you can’t use someone’s likeness for commercial purposes without their express permission. This means you can’t take a picture in a public place with recognizable faces and sell it to General Motors, Pizza Hut or a stock photo company. But you can sell them to news organizations or use them for art.

This naturally brings up questions about whether or not you actually own your own likeness, and can control your own legacy?

Do you own your likeness?

In the U.S. a person can be sued for using someone else’s name, likeness, or personal attributes without permission.

The right of publicity, often called personality rights, is the right of an individual to control the commercial use of his or her name, image, likeness, or other undeniable aspects of their identity. Since it’s considered a property right, it can survive the death of the individual.

However, as new technology comes into play, and images of ourselves become more pervasive, we run the risk of facing an entire new set of never-before-confronted intellectual property issues.

Here are the questions creative people will be asking:

If I alter the likeness by 10%-15%, will that be sufficient to claim it’s a non-descript person?
Will it be possible to create software that can certify that a likeness has been sufficiently altered to pass the test?

Unchartered Territory for Both AI and IP

At the forefront of this transition are a number of emerging technologies, and rest assured, I’m just scratching the surface of challenging issues ahead. The technologies listed below are just a few that come to mind, and yes there will be many more to come.

While many of the issues listed below are not specifically directed towards AI, the overall pervasiveness of future AI will make it a contributing factor.

Driverless Technologies

Within ten years it will be common to hale a driverless car on our smartphones, much like we do with Uber and Lyft today. But the data surrounding both the transaction and inside-the-car activities have great value.
1. Can autonomous car companies sell photos of occupants, announce when famous people will be arriving somewhere, or monitor if riders may be doing something illegal?
2. How much data surrounding the trip can car companies collect? (i.e. ages of occupants, music listened to on the trip, hair colors, eye colors, style of clothing, heart rates, and how many times riders use words like “totally” and “sweet”).
3. Will riders automatically waive their rights to avoid advertisements? Do they have the right to ride in an ad-free environment?
4. With competition coming on many fronts, how much of the “ride experience” will car companies be able to protect? Will they be able to patent, copyright, or trademark the level of privacy, its sound, texture, smell, taste, or harmonic vibration of the ride?

Future Search Engines

In the grand scheme of things, search engines are still a prehistoric technology. Quantum computing will soon enable us to define, test, and search for a variety of new physical and digital attributes. These include attributes like smells, tastes, barometric pressure, harmonic vibration, reflectivity, textures, and specific gravity.
5. When it comes to definable sensory creations like tastes and smells, will we soon be able to protect them with patents, trademarks, copyrights, or something else?

6. Can other definable attributes like harmonic vibration, reflectivity, and textures also be trademarked in a form similar to “sonic branding?”

7. How long will it be before we create “attribute scanners” to log our daily experiences in a way that will also make them searchable?

8. When will we see an artificial nose more accurate than a bloodhound? How long before someone creates the periodic table of smells?

Sensor Networks

Over a trillion sensors are predicted to be collecting and distributing information over the next decade.
9. Do we have the right to control, monitor, and delete data collected from our personal sensors? (i.e. When we buy sensor-infused clothing in the future, it may already come with a built-in data distribution network that we automatically agree to with the purchase.)
10. More data means more definition. Will we soon be able to trademark our signature personality traits like our dance moves, hand gestures, ear wiggle, or laugh?
11. Once we start tagging valuable objects, vehicles, and devices that we own, how will we prevent our “ownership network” from being hacked, monitored, or outright stolen from us?
12. What exactly will ownership mean in an era where physical products are replaced by digital ones and our ability to share, distribute, assign, and license are just a tiny fragment of the options available through our constantly morphing digital rights?

Internet of Things

As I like to say, the Internet of Things is all about “devices talking to devices, talking trash about other devices, spreading rumors and lies about other devices.” Naturally this leaves us with a few questions.
13. When we own a smart refrigerator, do our health and life insurance companies have the right to monitor our diets and feed the data into their latest actuarial tables?
14. If we use “mood-casters” to interface with the buildings around us, can the meta-data surrounding our attitudes and temperaments be scraped, used, and repurposed by building owners and neighboring occupants?
15. Will my IoT devices become searchable? Yes, being able to search the contents of my refrigerator while I’m at the grocery store may be convenient, but it also has the potential for being hi-jacked by marketing companies, headhunters, and political adversaries.
16. Does my IoT pot have the right to call my IoT kettle black?

3D Scanning & Printing

With changes happening almost on a minute-by-minute basis, the 3D printing industry is on the verge of becoming one of the largest industries on the planet.
17. Who owns the rights to our digitally scanned bodies? Who else can and will have access to them?
18. Will someone who wants to buy me a pair of hyper-personalized shoes as a present have access to my foot-scans? Will this type of permission also give access to other marketing companies?
19. When I grow older and 3D printed organs, body parts, and entire replacement bodies become available, will I be buying or licensing the replacement body parts? Can they be repossessed for lack of payment?
20. Having doctors monitor our replacement body parts remotely may sound convenient, but who will have access to the data? And will there be an off switch?

Contour Crafting

Created as a large-scale form of 3D printing, contour crafting is now viewed as a disruptive technology poised to revamp the entire construction industry.
21. What features in a printed house will be patentable? Printed cabinets? Printed insulation? Artistic walls? Printed solar roofs?
22. What tools will designers use to protect unique features such as lighting and audio configurations, elevator styles, sensor networks, and the operational characteristics of appliances?

Flying, Driving, Swimming, Crawling Drones

While flying drones are constantly in the news, drones are robotic vehicles with far more capabilities than simply flying. They can also roll along the ground, stick to the side of a building, float in a river, dive under water, jump onto a building, climb a tree, or attach themselves like parasites to the sides of trains, ships, and airplanes. Future drones will be designed with a wide range of complex capabilities, and these capabilities will dramatically change our understanding of privacy, personal space, and proximity-based rights.
23. Who owns information collected by drones, and who else will have access?
24. Does an open window somehow mean that it’s a public place and drones can fly in? Where do property lines begin and end? Where does personal space end and public space begin?
25. Will people have the right to “shoot down” or otherwise destroy unlicensed or “trespassing” drones?
26. What are the legal privacy barriers that will protect people from drones with cameras and audio scanning capabilities as well as drones equipped with a variety of other types of sensors? Should we have a Drone Bill of Rights?

Virtual & Augmented Reality

Both VR and AR are Internet-sized opportunities on the verge of exploding around us.
27. Do “real world” augmented reality game designers have the right to include the general public as unwitting participants in their games?
28. Who owns the “reaction data” in VR simulations? How a person reacts to specific situations can be incredibly valuable data.
29. Will VR experiences be patentable, copyrightable, or protectable in any way?
30. What is the proper term for a VR creation – a video, a game, a simulation, an experience, or something else?

Artificial Intelligence

With A.I. we stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. Microsoft even claims to have breakthrough A.I. technology for reprogramming cells back to a healthy state, and has announced they will be able to cure cancer in less than 10 years.
31. Will AI systems replace our need for human drivers, musicians, and doctors?
32. Can we reprogram our cells to cure most major diseases as Microsoft and others have proposed?
33. Will we “buy” the cure or just “license” it? Can we “gift” it to others?
34. Can an A.I. “entity” be copyrighted, trademarked, licensed, or sold?

Final Thoughts

Thomas Edison had enough clout to get Nikola Tesla eliminated from most history books. How many other people has this happened to?

Will people in the future have their legacy destroyed by historical revisionists with thousands of new tools like VR, AR, life-distorting videos?

How do we manage our own legacy if everything about us can be changed after we die?

Since dead people make great scapegoats, how do we protect the luminaries and past giants in our fields from having their accomplishments raided and reattributed to the living? If you don’t think this will become a problem, you haven’t been paying attention.

Yes, blockchain may be a solution, but only if it can be implemented fast enough.

While we will likely have a bright future ahead, our challenges should never be underestimated.

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