AI robot has IP rights, says Shenzhen court

Tencent has won a landmark legal case over copyright infringement. Or rather, it might be more accurate to say, one of its bots has.

The Shenzhen-based tech conglomerate’s AI news-writing software program, Dreamwriter, made history recently by becoming the first case of its kind in China to defend the copyright of a non-human. According to local media, no exact date was provided for the verdict. It was issued after a Chinese website specialising in online lending copied an article generated by Dreamwriter in August 2018. It was a commentary on the day’s trading in the Shanghai Stock Exchange, published on Tencent’s stock section of its news portal.

The service, wdzj.com, was instructed by the court to delete the article and pay Tencent 1,500 yuan in compensation. It determined that the copying work was a violation of the plaintiff’s “right to communicate works to the public over information networks”, South Metropolis Daily reported. 

“The form [of the article] meets the requirement for written works. The content demonstrates the selection, analysis and judgment based on the information from the stock market of the day and embodies originality”, stated the court judgment. This met the definition of a written work regulated by China’s copyright law, as reported by Legal Daily.

Dreamwriter, which has been churning out articles since August 2015, is able to produce around 300,000 annually. It can finish off a 1000-word business report in one minute, along with quotes from analysts, SCMP reported. It began covering business news but now has expanded to sports, movies, gaming and society.

However, it remains up for debate whether AI-generated articles should be entitled to copyright protection. In July 2019, Baidu had a case where its copyright was annulled for a photograph published by its AI-based news aggregator Baijiahao, as it was not regarded as original work, a court in Beijing ruled.

The latest verdict has some fans. “It will help facilitate the dissemination of works and creativity of AI,” said Li Yang, law professor at Sun Yat-sen University.

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