Property in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

Property in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

Mr. Benjamin Sobel, Professor William Fisher
Spring 2022 reading group
W 6:45pm - 8:15pm
1 classroom credit

Prerequisite: None

Exam Type: No Exam
Students should complete every reading assignment and participate in class discussions.

Property rights, understood broadly, are entitlements to exclude others from using things or information. Rights of this sort are at the heart of some of today’s most exciting legal problems—from transactions in non-fungible tokens (NFTs), to the regulation of likeness-synthesizing “deepfake” videos and facial recognition technology, to AI’s status as an “author” under copyright law, to market power in the digital economy.

This reading group explores how emerging technology is reshaping the doctrine and theory of property law and rights to exclude in general. The syllabus examines three areas unsettled by recent technological change: (1) privacy and control over one’s likeness, (2) intellectual property, and (3) competition in a networked economy.

Using facial recognition technology and deepfakes as case studies, the course’s section on privacy considers the following questions: in what ways do privacy interests overlap with and diverge from ownership interests? To what extent should we be able to control uses of our likenesses or personal information, and through what legal mechanisms? Which of the interests plausibly at stake—privacy, reputation, authorship, ownership, and so on—best justify rights concerning the use of one’s likeness in technologies like facial recognition and deepfakes?

The course’s section on intellectual property explores how AI is disrupting various creative industries. Will AI capable of generating images, text, and music necessitate an overhaul of copyright law’s concept of “authorship?” As machine learning improves at extracting expressive value from preexisting works, should copyright’s fair use defense allow AI to train on copyrighted works without rightsholders’ permission?

Finally, the reading group examines how the law of physical trespass has adapted to the digital age. This section of the class features a slate of readings that show how trespass law governs access to, and use of, valuable information posted on the public Internet.

Note: This reading group will meet for eight 90-minute sessions, specific dates: TBD.

Subject Areas: Intellectual Property, Cyberlaw and Technology, and Arts & Entertainment