For years, I have been hoping to collaborate with my dear friend Carys Craig, a copyright expert and rockstar Prof at Osgoode Hall professor whose work I have admired for years. In this early draft, we confront the issue of AI authorship. In a world where robots are writing movie scripts and composing music, much of the second-generation literature on AI and authorship asks whether an increasing sophistication and independence of generative code should cause us to rethink embedded assumptions about the meaning of authorship, arguing that recognizing the authored nature of AI-generated works may require a less profound doctrinal leap than has historically been suggested.
In this essay, we argue that the threshold for authorship does not depend on the evolution or state of the art in AI or robotics. Instead, we contend that the very notion of AI-authorship rests on a category mistake: it is not an error about the current or potential capacities, capabilities, intelligence or sophistication of machines; rather it is an error about the ontology of authorship.
Building on the established critique of the romantic author figure, we argue that the death of the romantic author also and equally entails the death of the AI author. We provide a theoretical account of authorship that demonstrates why claims of AI authorship do not make sense in terms of 'the realities of the world in which the problem exists.' (Samuelson, 1985) Those realities, we argue, must push us past bare doctrinal or utilitarian considerations of originality, assessed in terms of what an author must do. Instead, what they demand is an ontological consideration of what an author must be. The ontological question, we suggest, requires an account of authorship that is relational; it necessitates a vision of authorship as a dialogic and communicative act that is inherently social, with the cultivation of selfhood and social relations as the entire point of the practice. Of course, this ontological inquiry into the plausibility of AI-authorship transcends copyright law and its particular doctrinal conundrums, going to the normative core of how law should — and should not — think about robots and AI, and their role in human relations.