Some Aspects of AI are a Good Fit for Copyright Protection

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Andrew Rapacke
Andrew Rapacke

AI technology is a complicated creature – and this is particularly true when figuring out what IP assets exist in an AI technology. Some elements of AI involve creative thought or expression by the developers, such as the creativity that goes into writing the underlying software code or structuring a database for the AI. Other aspects of the AI are purely functional, such as code that is based on mathematical formulas or proprietary algorithms.

But only creative elements of software code can be protected by copyright – functional elements of software code cannot. Any of the following may be eligible for copyright protection:

  • Human-readable source code
  • Machine-readable object code
  • Operating systems
  • Software applications
  • Code libraries
  • Data bases
  • Mobile application platforms
  • Graphical user interfaces

Conversely, the items identified below are usually considered to be functional elements of software code and are not protectable under copyright:

  • Ideas or concepts
  • Methods for doing, making or building
  • Methods of operation
  • Scientific or technical methods
  • Algorithms or mathematical principles
  • Business operations or procedures
  • Functions, logic or formatting

Sorting out which elements of software code are creative and which are functional is a tough call sometimes. Since software code for AI technologies often involves a combination of creative and functional elements that are highly integrated with one another in the code, it is common for developers to finalize a version of their software code, and then to register the code in its entirety with the Copyright Office. Later, in the event of infringement, the courts will determine which elements of the software code are functional and which are protected as creative works.   

Why Register a Copyright?

The underlying software code for an AI technology is a critical piece of intellectual property. A good option for protecting software code is to obtain copyright protection. A copyright is created the instance that a creative work, such as software code, is fixed in a tangible medium. This could mean hitting the “save” button, or printing out a hard-copy of the AI code. But a copyright is a much stronger legal protection if the copyright is officially registered with the U.S. Copyright Office.

Copyright registration offers several benefits on top of prohibiting others from copying the protected work. For instance, registration serves as a formal notice to the public that the work is copyright protected. Registration also demonstrates ownership of the work, and makes copyright owners eligible for statutory damages up to $100k per instance of infringement if the protected work is copied by someone without permission.

Contact a Copyright Attorney Today

Obtaining copyright protection for AI-related software can be a significant step towards protecting your intellectual property assets. Registration of copyright material is a straightforward process, which your IP attorney can help you with. Please feel free to speak to one of our seasoned copyright professionals if you would like assistance registering your AI software code. The copyright attorneys at The Rapacke Law Group look forward to working with you. Contact us today.

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  • Get help identifying what type of IP protection may the best fit for your situation.
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