Is AI's "Great Artists Steal" Ethos Genius or Theft? — Thoughts on Tech & Things

In OpenAI’s legal challenge with the New York Times, its lawyers echoed my belief: creating useful AI is virtually impossible without leveraging copyrighted source material.

This intersects with a pivotal question — where does today’s narrowing fair use doctrine end as infringement begins in the digital age? My 2023 piece “Originality” tackled dilemmas around AI rapidly synthesizing cultural works to forge new directions.

I’ve long argued all expression – AI or human – derives from influences. Musicians riff familiar instruments created by others. Fantasy tales borrow mythical beings like elves traced back centuries. As Steve Jobs put it, “great artists steal.”

My take? Generative AI follows the same “derivative” creative process as people. By digitally synthesizing books, news and tweets at lightning speed, it takes innate human creativity to dizzying new levels. But will limiting its access to only public domain scraps knee-cap realizing AI’s full potential?

Overly expansive rights now threaten to divide human and machine ingenuity. As creators navigate IP minefields, they become less adventurous. More concerned about litigation than creation. This inhibits the technological leaps that fuel cultural progress.

Artificial Inteligence Opinion