RIA submits comments to WIPO on Intellectual Property and AI

Can a machine create art? Is it art if a machine generates it? These sound like questions for a philosophical debate. But the international trade regime turns these abstruse questions into debates about the future of millions of people. Will artists in LDCs be able to make a living? Will innovation in developing countries be stymied by a thicket of machine generated patents? A draft issue paper by the World Intellectual Property Organisation, asks only abstract questions about AI and copyright and patent.

WIPO is a United Nations agency and thus duty bound to advance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and has its own member-led Development Agenda. But the draft issue paper made no reference to either the SDGs or the Development Agenda. Instead, it asks whether copyright should be recognised in AI generated products, and whether AI should be regarded as inventors, as if the answers to these questions are the same in Antananarivo, as in Zurich.

In its comments on the draft issue paper Research ICT Africa (RIA) pointed out that the issue of AI and IP cannot be considered by WIPO without taking into account development imperatives. Knowledge Ecology International and the Wikimedia Foundation advised against treating machine generated productions the same as human creativity.

While many of the submissions to WIPO answered the questions posed in the draft issue paper, Research ICT Africa pointed out that the draft paper does not take development appropriately into account, and suggested questions that should be included instead of and in addition to the questions in the draft. In the invitation to comment on the draft issue paper WIPO promised that those responding would get an opportunity to answer the questions in the issue paper in a future process.

Although quite a large number of companies and individuals commented only one African country, Morocco, did so.

RIA’s Senior Research Fellow, Dr. Andrew Rens, authored RIA’s submission to WIPO’s draft discussion document on Intellectual Property and AI.