In 2023, the U.S. Copyright Office (USCO) tackled pivotal challenges in copyright law, addressing issues such as the copyrightability of AI-generated content, refining regulations in the music industry, and considering new exemptions under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). These developments signify the USCO’s commitment to adapt to the evolving landscape of copyright law.
Copyright Office’s AI Initiative
Following a decision to partially cancel a comic book registration due to AI-generated images, the USCO initiated an AI-focused endeavor. The Office clarified that AI-generated material, lacking human creative control, is not copyrightable under the Copyright Act. However, if human authors sufficiently contribute to a work containing AI-generated elements, those aspects are copyrightable. The USCO emphasized the duty of applicants to disclose AI-generated content in their submissions.
The office hosted sector-specific listening sessions to gather public input on AI-related issues. The USCO plans to release a report on generative AI in 2024.
Proposed rules for the music modernization act
The USCO embarked on a rulemaking process to provide guidance on how the statutory derivative works exception applies to copyright termination rights within the framework of blanket licenses established by the Music Modernization Act (MMA). This legal clarification became necessary as the 2018 MMA did not explicitly address termination rights.
The USCO proposed rules confirming that the derivative works exception does not apply to blanket licenses. This allows authors to regain copyrights and receive post-termination royalties. The Office extended this rule to cover various music licenses, including matched royalties and individual download licenses.
Proposed Exemptions under Section 1201 of Title 17
As part of the ninth triennial proceeding under Section 1201 of Title 17, the USCO considered exemptions from the prohibition on circumventing technological protection measures. The Office intends to keep existing exemptions but one, based on the absence of evidence of adverse effects.
A notable petition by Jonahtan Weiss advocated for an exemption to circumvent access controls on “copyrighted generative AI models” for research purposes. The exemption aims to promote fairness and transparency in AI model development while safeguarding against misuse. The USCO sought public input on whether to adopt this proposed exemption, acknowledging the need to balance research progress with intellectual property rights, privacy, and security concerns.