India: Al And Copyright Complications

Last Updated: 27 August 2019
Article by Apoorv Dixit

"Sometime early in this century the intelligence of machines will exceed that of humans. Within a quarter of a century, machines will exhibit the full range of human intellect, emotions and skills, ranging from musical and other creative aptitudes to physical movement. They will claim to have feelings and, unlike today's virtual personalities, will be very convincing when they tell us so." – Ray Kurzweil (2008).1

Whether it is the Indian Copyright Act, 1957 or the Patents Act 1970, most Indian legislations find their roots in the British colonial administration.2At that time, technology was not as advanced as it is now. Machines were simply used to assist humans in their work. However, the reality has drastically changed now with the increasing use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in our daily lives. Whether it's applications like Prisma and Google Deep Dreams which work on strong neural networks to produce stunning creations of art or weak AIs consisting of chat-bots like Siri or Alexa, we are being increasingly surrounded by technological advancement and AI is a paramount part of it.

The idea of copyrights or other intellectual-property rights being conferred upon humans is based on the traditional approach and all the existing legislations are drafted according to it. However, with the progression of our society, original works are being created by non-human entities and this makes the idea of 'authorship' and 'copyright owner' more confusing. If we look at the celebrated case of the 'Monkey Selfie' wherein the monkey accidentally clicked a selfie from a photographer's camera and PETA approached the court on the monkey's behalf for assigning him the copyright for the selfie, problems like these become evident. Although this issue got settled out-of-court, how the court would have adjudicated in the matter remains unanswered.3

A.I music making industry is also a widely recognised phenomenon today. Verbasizer was the first such application that took literary source material as input and reordered the words to come up with an original song. Amper, on the other hand is the latest application with a highly convenient interface and creates new songs on the spot.4 These applications are based on deep learning networks wherein the AI is fed with multitude of source material (songs in this case) which further analyzes and learns the patterns of the inputs and in turn produces brand new creations. The legal question concerning 'authorship' of the song being given to either the software or the human creator of the software or the original lyricist of the songs given as input develops here.

The question which these instances pose before us is whether non-human entities for example, A.I, can be given authorship and hence copyrights over their creative works. This hypothetical situation was depicted in the critically acclaimed Hollywood movie, Her. Samantha, the Operating System with a female voice, in the course of her interaction with her owner, collects a few letters written by him and later compiles and gets them published into a book. The argument that was not discussed in the movie is whether the copyright for those letters, published under the name of Theodore (the human lead), should be assigned to the human, the AI Samantha or to no one at all?

Here, the legal complexity arises as to who will be assigned the copyright. Some might advocate the application of Section 17 of the Indian Copyright Act, which involves work for hire situations and employer-employee relationships wherein the maker of the computer program that produced the art should be attributed the authorship; however this is a very narrow approach as it fails to identify machines as creators of original work.

Given the gap in IP laws with respect to creations by AI, certain alternatives are being offered. They include copyright being disallowed completely for any creation by a machine or giving the authorship just to the software.5The first alternative arises out of the traditional idea of only humans being creators of any creative work. This approach might spare the court from crediting inanimate objects with a potential to formulate and express ideas but it depicts the laid back approach of the legal system where it has no available recourse to comply with any modulation in the copyright laws when required. Moreover one must also look behind the social intention of IP laws which primarily is incentivizing innovation and creativity. Improving copyright laws while recognising machines as creators of work would incentivise people to develop and disseminate new AI products.

The fresh and intermediary approach that is being discussed by the courts is a theory originally created by Timothy Butler, one in which the court creates a fictional human.  If any case that comes to the court where a work has been created by any AI, the court shall create a fictional human author and provide it the authorship.6 This approach has several benefits. Firstly, it maintains that the ideas cannot be formed by machines and keep up with the traditional approach of the author being a human and the creation, a result of the author's 'intellectual labour'. This way the court would not have to deal with the problem of floodgates with cases of non-human entities being conferred copyrights. It also keeps up with the policy/incentive-based aspect of the copyright law as the copyright will be available on the machine created works instead of out-rightly rejecting it as discussed in the first alternative. However Butler's theory has been criticised for requiring necessary litigation over each individual work.

There have been further developments in this theory as well. At this point, it becomes imperative to say is that with the drastic advancement in technology, the legal implications and recourses should be kept updated. Whether it's the creation of a fictional human or an even better alternative, the legal processes should continue to evolve with the ever-advancing technology.7

Author: Apoorv Dixit, third year student at NALSAR University of Law. Member of the Tech Law Forum at Nalsar, Intern at IP and Legal Filings   and can be reached at


1 Olga Fesenko, Intellectual Property Rights in Artificial Intelligence, University of Tartu, School of Law Department, (2017).

2 Controller general of Patents, Designs and Trademarks, Intellectual Property India, (Last accessed on Dec.02, 2018),

3 Andres Guadamuz, Can the monkey selfie case teach us anything about copyright law?, World Intellectual Property Organization, (Last accessed on Dec.04, 2018),

4 Dani Deahl, How AI generated music is changing the way hits are made, The Verge,

5Timothy Buttler, Can a Computer be an Author- Copyright Aspects of Artificial Intelligence, L.S, 04, 707, (1981).

6 Timothy Buttler, Can a Computer be an Author- Copyright Aspects of Artificial Intelligence, L.S, 04, 707, (1981).

7 Tuomoss Sorjamaa, Author- Authorship and Copyright in the age of Artificial Intelligence, H.S.E, 55, (2016).

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions