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If this title has caught your attention, then I expect that – like me – you are a fan of Ridley Scott's epic 1982 film, Blade Runner. Scott left the audience guessing whether the film's protagonist, Rick Deckard, was human or a replicant with implanted memories just like those he was tasked with hunting down and eliminating.
Forty years on, in 2022, it's fair to say we are living in a world in which machines are replicating what humans can do in increasingly sophisticated ways. Pre-trained natural language processing transformer models, such as OpenAI's GPT-3 and Microsoft/NVIDIA’s MT-NLG, can produce text which appears very much like it has been authored by a human. Would-be artists can play around on publicly accessible models such as Midjourney or Stable Diffusion to render images that very few of us could produce by our own hand and eye (for example, the image accompanying this post was rendered by Stable Diffusion following a prompt based on the title).
These models are doing some very heavy lifting and have considerable commercial utility – writing copy, blog creation and so on. However, they are not (yet) Rick Deckard. Why?
The human input still really matters. That is important because copyright law is still generally rooted to the notion that a human author and intellectual creativity is required for copyright to arise. And copyright is important when it comes to considering who has the ability to control and exploit the outputs rendered by these models. It is therefore foreseeable that as the adoption of these models expands, more disputes will emerge about which humans are entitled to any copyright in the outputs rendered by them. Perhaps more interestingly, the UK's 'outlier' provision for computer-generated works which have no human author (S9(3) CDPA 1988) will get a fresh airing in court.
Disclosure: I have lost myself for hours using the beta version of Midjourney typing in random prompts about angry judges and space llamas.
Pre-trained natural language processing transformer models, such as OpenAI's GPT-3 and Microsoft/NVIDIA’s MT-NLG, can produce text which appears very much like it has been authored by a human.
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