Thank you CIPO (Canadian Intellectual Property Office). Last week I indicated in my blog post (“Copyright Registration for AI-assisted Creations: How Much AI Input is Too Much?”) that I would be seeking to register with CIPO the copyright on a work fully generated by AI platforms DALL-E2 and ChatGPT. It was a bit of doggerel verse accompanied by a computer-generated image of someone sitting on a dock at twilight. ChatGPT labelled it “Sunset Serenity”. Copyright certificate No. 1201819 issued by CIPO on April 11, 2023, arrived by mail yesterday. It registers my copyright in the following work;
“SUNSET SERENITY, BEING AN IMAGE AND POEM ABOUT SUNSET AT AN ONTARIO LAKE CREATED ENTIRELY BY AI PROGRAMS DALL-E2 AND CHATGPT (POEM) ON THE BASIS OF PROMPTS DEMONSTRATING MINIMAL SKILL AND JUDGEMENT ON THE PART OF THE HUMAN AUTHOR CLAIMING COPYRIGHT”.
What does this little experiment prove? That Canada endorses copyright registration for wholly AI generated works? Doubtful. Perhaps the conclusion is that CIPO exercises no due diligence over the process of issuing copyright registration, and simply rubber stamps whatever is submitted to it. Maybe the process is fully automated and no human actually reads the copyright application and exercises any judgement? Another AI application? CIPO’s website notes that, “When you register your copyright, you receive a certificate…that you can use in court as evidence that you own the work.” However, it also adds the caveat that “CIPO cannot guarantee that the legitimacy of ownership or the originality of a work will never be questioned.” So, what’s the point?
Is my $50 certificate worth the parchment that it is printed on? In terms of legal precedent, clearly not. However, it points to a weakness in the current Canadian copyright registration system. With no ability to actually review what is being submitted (no copy of the work to be registered is required to be submitted with the application, and if it is submitted it is not examined or retained), CIPO reminds me a bit of a diploma mill. Ask and ye shall receive—if you pay the fee. The certificate does not actually prove my ownership or authorship. That is automatic and if contested, would have to be proven in a court of law. The certificate is a nice wall decoration though. It is worth recalling that CIPO is also responsible for examining patent applications and registering trademarks and industrial designs where one assumes the Office is a lot more proactive, judging by the more significant fees charged. Copyright registration seems to be a bit of an add on, without much thought given to it.
Originally, I wanted to claim ownership but list AI as the author, but the CIPO form requires the author’s address, contact details and date of death, if deceased, so instead of claiming that ChatGPT or DALL-E2 are the author I have had to content myself with claiming authorship in a work in which I put no creative effort other than to type in the following prompt;
“Write me a poem in iambic pentameter involving watching the sun set over a lake in northern Ontario while I sit in Muskoka chair at my dock sipping on a cool drink, listening to the haunting cry of the loon”.
(I don’t even know what iambic pentameter is but I recall from my high school English classes that it has something to do with poetry)
I guess I did exercise some judgement when, in response to a similar image prompt, DALL-E2 served me up an image of a loon sitting in a Muskoka chair, and I decided not to choose that one. Maybe that meets the standard of originality applied in Canada.
Am I the first to cross the threshold of creating the first fully AI created copyrighted work to be registered in Canada? Given the way CIPO operates, I doubt it, but you never know. But if anyone wants to purchase or license the copyright on this unique creation, call me.
© Hugh Stephens, 2023. All Rights Reserved.