Erin Austin - The Intersection of AI, Copyright, and Plagiarism

Strategic lawyer and IP expert Erin Austin joined me on Ditching Hourly to talk about the intersection of plagiarism, copyright infringement, and generative AI. 

Erin's Bio

A graduate of Harvard Law School, Erin Austin is a strategic lawyer and consultant who uses her 25+ years of practicing law, including roles as COO and general counsel at large and small IP-driven companies, including Warner Brothers, Lionsgate (formerly known as Artisan), MGM, Teaching Strategies, and M3 USA Corp, to help female founders of expertise-based firms build and protect saleable assets so that the business is ready to sell when the founder is ready to exit.

Erin's Links
AI-Generated Stuff


In this conversation, Jonathan Stark and Erin Austin discuss the legal and ethical issues surrounding AI. They explore the difference between plagiarism and copyright infringement, the ethical obligations of giving credit, and the copyright protection of AI-generated content. They also touch on the parallel between AI and ghostwriters, the copyright situation with reference materials like encyclopedias, and the challenge of tracing ideas back to their original source. The conversation explores the impact of digital technology on copyright and intellectual property. They discuss the ease of copying and plagiarism in the digital age, the potential for copyright infringement with AI-generated content, and the importance of copyright registration. They also touch on the challenges of compensating creators in the age of AI and the potential for job disruption. Overall, they express optimism about the benefits of AI while acknowledging the need for responsible use.

  • Plagiarism is the ethical breach of stealing someone else's ideas, while copyright infringement is the legal issue of using someone's protected work without permission.
  • AI-generated content is not eligible for copyright protection because it is not created by a human, but there are gradations of AI involvement that can still receive protection.
  • There is little ethical breach in not crediting AI for its output, as AI is not the creator of ideas, and the output is often not considered thought leadership.
  • When using AI-generated content, it is important to ensure that it does not infringe on someone else's copyright and to add a layer of creativity if you want to be eligible for copyright protection.
  • The copyright situation with AI is complex and depends on factors such as the level of AI involvement, the nature of the work, and the agreements in place.
  • Tracing ideas back to their original source can be challenging, and the expression of ideas is what is protected by copyright law, not the ideas themselves. The digital nature of content makes it easier to copy and plagiarize, leading to copyright infringement.
  • Copyright registration is important to protect intellectual property rights and provide evidence of ownership.
  • AI-generated content raises questions about compensating creators and the need for new licensing models.
  • Job disruption is a concern with the rise of AI, but a slow transition may allow for adaptation and new opportunities.
  • Responsible use of AI is crucial to avoid ethical and legal issues.
Sound Bites
  • "We do not have ethical obligations to AI. It is not the creator of any ideas."
  • "Are we getting something that would be considered thought leadership? And my experience is that we aren't."
  • "AI-generated content is not eligible for copyright protection because US copyright law requires that the original content be created by a human."
  • "I assume there's some sort of AI, something that can change it for them."
  • "You can kind of be copyrighted out of your own stuff."
  • "When there are billions of data points out there, how are you going to compensate all the people who may have rights in the data sets?"
  • 00:00 Introduction and Background
  • 05:01 Ethical Obligations of Giving Credit to AI
  • 09:46 Copyright Protection of AI-Generated Content
  • 20:50 Copyright Situation with Reference Materials
  • 27:50 Challenge of Tracing Ideas Back to Their Source
  • 30:50 Introduction and Digital Nature of Content
  • 36:10 Copyright Infringement and Remixing in Music
  • 39:26 Compensating Creators and Copyright Ownership
  • 41:12 Ownership of User-Generated Content on Platforms
  • 44:41 AI's Collection of Data and Privacy Concerns
  • 48:23 Optimism about AI and Responsible Use
  • 51:10 Job Disruption and Transition with AI
  • 53:45 Conclusion and Where to Find More Information


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Creators and Guests

Jonathan Stark
Jonathan Stark
The Ditching Hourly Guy • For freelancers, consultants, and other experts who want to make more and work less w/o hiring
Erin Austin
Erin Austin
I help consultants and coaches turn their expertise into new scalable revenue streams by creating, protecting and licensing intellectual property
Erin Austin - The Intersection of AI, Copyright, and Plagiarism
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