One of the most significant outcomes of the so-called "Fourth Industrial Revolution" is the development of highly sophisticated technologies for artificial intelligence (“AI”). The scale, scope, and complexity of tasks that can be performed by AI are perceived to be endless. In fact, many human activities are now being carried out by or with the help of AI. One of those activities is the creation of artistic works, including music, painting, literature, and others. Traditionally, only humans could be considered to have created such works, especially in a legal sense, including under copyright law. But now, as AI can significantly contribute to the process of creating such works, oftentimes much more than humans themselves, the question arises as to whether copyrights may be granted for AI-generated works and if so, who is entitled to receive the copyright. The purpose of this article is to discuss this issue especially from a Korean law perspective. But as much of this discussion focuses on copyright issues generally regarding AI, it may be applicable to other jurisdictions as well.
Under Korean law, a copyrightable work is defined as “a creative production that expresses human thoughts and emotions.” In other words, in order to be protected by copyright law in Korea, a work must satisfy three different requirements. First, a work needs to be “creative,” meaning the work is original and not an imitation of someone else’s work. Second, human thoughts and emotions need to be “expressed” through some medium. An idea itself does not constitute a copyrightable work. Finally, a work needs to reflect “human thoughts and emotions.”
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