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Jan 05, 2024

Generative AI: The Creative Revolution That Threatens Copyright

by Hugues Foltz Executive vice-president

Culture, Artificial intelligence

In today's fast-paced world, convenience and instant gratification have become the standard. Even the enjoyment of art, which used to require time and patience, is now readily available and mass-produced on subscription platforms. With just a few dollars per month, we have access to an almost endless array of movies, music, podcasts, audiobooks, and other forms of entertainment.

In this context, it is crucial to question the devaluation of the artists' work behind these pieces, which are packaged together, consumed, and promptly forgotten.

If digitization had already turned the creative industry upside down, raising questions about piracy and the distribution of creative products, artificial intelligence is presenting itself as a second great revolution. This time, what's at stake is the very act of creation and the associated copyright.

Did you watch the episode of Black Mirror starring actress Salma Hayek? The show revolves around a TV subscription platform that begins airing content produced entirely by artificial intelligence. The horror lies in two things. Firstly, the algorithm that created the narrative copied the existence of a very real person, who, to the best of their knowledge, had not given their consent for their information to be used in this way. Of course, she is not paid. Secondly, an actress had given the studio the right to use her image and voice to create the visuals for the show. As the series progresses, the avatar of the actress is depicted in an increasingly degrading and humiliating manner, leaving her with no control over her image on screen. Eventually, the actress realizes that she has lost control over her avatar.


Sci-fi, you say? Unfortunately not, AI has gotten there. Have you watched the Virgin Voyages advertisement featuring Jennifer Lopez, or rather her AI rendition? The ad allows anyone to create a personalized message where the actress invites them to book a stay on a cruise. Of course, in this case, JLO has consented to the use of her image within a very specific context. The avatar in question is restricted in terms of what it can say due to the limited scenario it operates in, and viewers are aware that it has been created using artificial intelligence. Nevertheless, the outcome is compelling and indicates that the groundwork has been established for similar projects in the future.

The Coca-Cola brand has recently created an ad that features a clever mix of live-action, digital effects and AI. It takes us on a tour of some of the world's most famous paintings. Although the production is striking and the concept absolutely brilliant, it raises the question of the copyrights of these artworks. And let's not forget the story of the song made from the voices of Drake and The Weeknd, done without their knowledge. Is this even legal?

Is the image above the result of generative AI or just a photograph taken at Le Massif de Charlevoix?

It's not just artists who are caught up in this; the vast majority of professions will be affected by generative AI. The world is experiencing a veritable revolution, similar to the one experienced when the Internet first appeared in the early 2000s.

The potential of AI is a source of wonder for some, yet a source of terror for others. However, a question arises: who has ownership over the works produced by AI? This matter is highly complex, as while a human may have commissioned these works, they were also generated by a machine. In a world where art is often served in bulk on various platforms, and the process of its creation is undervalued, the respect for the artist and their rights appears to be compromised.

You might be aware of the Hollywood writers' strike that ended in September last year. One of the most closely watched issues concerned the use of generative AI for screenwriting. After five months of tough negotiations, the authors have won their case. The new agreement states that studios won’t be allowed to use AI for screenwriting, but screenwriters can use it to enhance their abilities while retaining sole ownership of their work. AI can be used to augment artists' skills but not to replace them.


This groundbreaking decision can potentially serve as a guiding example for the entire industry. It demonstrates that AI technology is neither inherently good nor bad; rather, its impact depends on how we choose to use it. Technological progress cannot be stopped, but we must find ways to manage it responsibly and harness its full potential.

Hollywood screenwriters aren't the first to decry the dangers of AI, and they certainly won't be the last. This is just the start of a lengthy process of negotiation, legislation and defining the impact of generative AI on the creative industry - not to mention many other sectors!

The point I'm conveying is that we need to start thinking now about how we can incorporate AI in the creative industry and decide where we should draw the line. If we don’t take this step now, it won't be long before it overwhelms us and causes irreversible harm.