Mailbag Monday Generative AI copyright

Mailbag Monday: Generative AI copyright?

Katie and Chris answer your marketing, data, and AI questions every Monday.


This week, Jocelyn asked, “From a copyright perspective, if you use AI-generated HTML on your website how will that impact the overall copyright on a company website? Will the copy (if it’s human-generated) remain copyrighted? What do I need to know about generative AI copyright?”


Mailbag Monday: Generative AI copyright?

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AI-generated transcript:

Katie Robbert 0:00
Welcome back to another edition of mailbag Monday where Chris and I are answering all of your marketing data, AI, and legal questions about generative AI. That’s a big theme for this month. And so Chris Joslin asked from a copyright perspective, if you use AI generated HTML on your website, how will that impact the overall copyright on a company’s website? Will the copy remain? copyrighted?

Christopher Penn 0:31
Okay, so first, we’re not lawyers, lawyers, we cannot give legal advice. If you need legal advice, hire an actual lawyer. This is very interesting, because it’s, it’s differentiating code from presentation. Right? So I’m going to assume in Jonathan’s case, he’s saying the human generated copy on the website is is there, the that remains copyrighted because it is carried by humans, the US, the UK, and the EU have all ruled essentially, that copyright can only be given to humans or representatives of humans, machines, chimpanzees, whatever, they cannot claim copyright. But this is interesting, because Joss was asking if the underlying display code that the actual HTML like this is a table, this is a heading and stuff like that, if that is machine generated, does that impact the copyright of a copy? The answer is no. In the same way, that if you had a bucket of of toys, right, and the toys inside were yours, but the bucket was not just because the toys in the bucket does not change the ownership of the toys, right? But the bucket is somebody else’s, or doesn’t belong to anyone, right? And that’s what the HTML, the code that runs your website is, that can’t be copyrighted, right? So someone else could take the structure the underlying code of your website, if it was purely machine generated, and copy that news that themselves, right, so they could use that HTML. But if the the writing the content, the images and stuff, if that is all human generated, that is still yours. So it’s it. In some ways, it’s kind of like how people think about like Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics, Google BERT, Google Tag Manager is a container in which Google Analytics and other stuff sits inside of it. In this case, your HTML, this machine Jared is still has human content inside of it. So the container can’t be copyrighted, but the contents can.

Katie Robbert 2:21
I liked how your example included finding a random bucket and putting your stuff inside of it.

Christopher Penn 2:27
You know, when you have kids, you’re constantly

Katie Robbert 2:32
it reminds me and this is a little bit of a digression. But I’ll bring it back to the point it reminds me when I worked a few jobs ago, as a product manager, the stakeholders felt very strongly about copyrighting the underlying code that went into the product that we were writing. But the challenge was that the code was literally changing minute by minute, every day. So like we couldn’t ever get a clean copy of the code to protect the IP of it, to go through the copyright process. The reason I bring this up is because it strikes me that copywriting a website, overall, isn’t really what you’re doing your copywriting, the content, your copywriting, the brand. But unless you have stood up your own website, on your own servers, you’re likely using a hosted service like a WordPress or something else. And they still, in some ways you are what is it you are building on rented land, and you can’t copyright something that somebody else already owns. And so you have to think about the pieces that you want to protect. And in this case, you know, again, very simple example, we don’t know the full context of what Jocelyn was asking. But if it’s the content that you’re trying to copyright, then the code underlying on the website is kind of irrelevant.

Christopher Penn 3:58
Exactly. It’s a really good example, Katie, because if you think about it, Squarespace or Wix, or WordPress, they don’t own your site, but they absolutely own the framework, maybe the template that you’re using. If a machine is generated, the template the template is ineligible for copyright, but the content you put in that template is eligible. So think about if your website was all just lorem ipsum and then placeholder images, right? That was that it had no copyright attachment, then yes, your HTML could not be copyrighted. Because machine generated the moment you switch out that out, you know, from, you know, a picture of a monkey to like your CEO. And you put in the actual, the actual copy of that person. So have a lorem ipsum paragraph now, your content is copyrightable.

Katie Robbert 4:44
I think of it in terms of so I used to own a condo, and I own from the studs in and the condo association owned from the studs out which was constantly a battle because I would find them you know, outside my windows and I would say get out My property and they would say it’s not yours, it’s ours. But it’s very much the same idea. If you have a website you own from the studs in, and the hosting service owns from the studs out.

Christopher Penn 5:13
Yep. And the exact same thing here is a machine is the machine has a machine is made of the studs. I mean, that makes no sense.

Katie Robbert 5:24
I think I think I think I think the point being is that, you know, in terms of copyright, you know, as you stated in other episodes, you can’t copyright an idea, but you can copyright the content. If you’re trying to copyright the HTML, if it’s machine generated, that’s ineligible. But also look at why you’re copywriting the HTML, what is it that that HTML does that it needs to be copyrighted? You know, so those are bigger questions to ask.

Christopher Penn 5:53
Exactly. So, really good question. And hopefully this was helpful. We’ll talk to you next time. Thanks for watching today’s show. If you liked it, please hit the subscribe button and bell to be notified when we publish new shows. If you want to catch all our content, including back episodes, subscribe to our free inbox insights newsletter at trust Want to talk about what you’ve enjoyed? Join our free Slack community analytics for marketers at trust for marketers need help with your marketing data analytics or AI. Drop us a line at trust Thanks for watching. I’ll see you next time.

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