26 April 2024

AI's Complex Relationship With IP

IR Global


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Japan's engagement with AI technologies presents new challenges for copyright law, particularly as generative AI becomes more prevalent.
Japan Intellectual Property
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Japan's engagement with AI technologies presents new challenges for copyright law, particularly as generative AI becomes more prevalent. The core issue lies in the ambiguity of applying existing copyright laws to AI-generated content, which raises questions about copyright infringement and the extent of protection offered. Three main areas are affected:

Learning/Development Stage:

The use of copyrighted material in training AI typically doesn't constitute infringement under the 2018 amendment (Article 30-4 of the Copyright Act). This provision allows for the use of copyrighted works for purposes beyond personal enjoyment, like data analysis, as long as it doesn't unreasonably prejudice the interests of the copyright owner. Nonetheless, the ambiguity in defining 'unreasonable prejudice' complicates the process of assessing infringement.

Generation/Utilisation Stage:

To establish copyright infringement, two key factors are considered: the similarity of the work and its reliance on an existing work. Typically, reliance is deduced from the degree of similarity, with the assumption that significant similarity implies dependence. However, unique aspects of AI-generated content that closely mimic copyrighted works without explicit reliance on an existing work complicate legal judgments. There is also the problem that if pirated or other illegally uploaded copyrighted works are widely used as training data for generative AI, copyright infringement may be encouraged.


The Copyright Act protects human creative expression, often excluding AI-generated content from copyright. However, there is potential for recognising human creative involvement in AI creations, such as in the crafting of prompts or the selection of outputs. Yet, establishing clear criteria for this recognition and the extent of copyrightability remains a challenge. Complicating matters further is the difficulty in distinguishing between content created by AI and that by humans.

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