Generative AI cannot write by itself

Courtesy of Gencraft AI | Gencraft AI’s interpretation of Duquesne University’s campus.

Emma Polen | Editor-in-Chief

Last week, The Duke’s Eliyahu Gasson argued that AI had no place in the world of artistic expression. This week, I’d like to dive deeper into this discussion and offer a different stance: Generative AI is a useful tool for creators, and the technology has no ability on its own to infringe on copyright. It is ultimately the user’s responsibility to manage gen AI in an ethical way.

Gen AI cannot create anything using only itself. It is a proven fact that AI can have no personal experience of its own. Unless AI could open up the dirty window and feel the rain on its skin, it will never be able to portray its experiences through artistic expression.

Jason Allen’s AI-generated “Théâtre D’opéra Spatial” image which took first place at the Colorado State Fair still consisted of an original idea he delivered through a prompt to AI technology. Yes, he may not have spent the same devoted hours perfecting brush strokes like the other painters who also submitted art, but it was a different form of media production.

Back in the early 1900s when photography began taking off, landscape painters were concerned for their jobs. They argued that photos could not compare to their unique renderings.

However, as we know today, painters still exist. Some scholars even argue that the advent of photography opened artists up to be able to express the world around them differently, leading to movements like impressionism and post-modernism which were based more on the personal, emotional interpretation of a specific moment, rather than representing a scene realistically.

Even photographs can be argued as personal interpretations of the world. Photographs are two-dimensional captures of the three-dimensional world. Stephen Shore, an American photographer, argues that a camera is “a tool to create what they [the artist] want, which is not the same as the world.”

The photographer gets credit for their captures of the world, a decision made official with a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. Maybe monkeys can’t claim their own copyright, but the same is true with AI. The work generated from a creative tool, like a photo camera or generative AI, is assisting the actual human creator. It is this human’s job, then, to consider the impact of their creations using gen AI.

Matthew Sag, professor of Law in Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Data Science at Emory University Law School, argues that it is ultimately the AI user’s decision to run through copyrighted works. AI cannot come up with original ideas, instead relying on the prompt of the user to produce media.

One of my most recent creative storytelling projects was writing a “Cunk on Earth” parody, where a friend walked around campus telling the camera about Pittsburgh in the humorous style of English actress Diane Morgan’s character, Philomena Cunk. It was my decision to write a parody using someone else’s copyrighted work.

I used AI to provide me with ideas for video segments. Here was my prompt to ChatGPT: “Write me three short segments in the style of Philomena Cunk from Cunk on Earth about the city of Pittsburgh.” I then used the output as inspiration when writing my final script.

AI is only as creative as the prompter. ChatGPT would have never had segment ideas for me in the style of Philomena Cunk had I not deliberately asked the technology to produce it. Ultimately, it was my decision to prompt AI to parody a copyrighted work.

With my “Cunk on Earth” script, I obviously claim that this is not my original work; this was inspired by a previous show starring British “investigative reporter” Philomena Cunk.

If I had called the sketch something completely different and attempted to claim I made the mocumentary idea up all on my own, that would have been immoral. It would not be AI’s fault that the production I prompted would be taking from copyrighted work – it would be my own fault. I literally asked ChatGPT to take inspiration from “Cunk on Earth.”

Claiming the work as your own would be a conscious misuse of AI technology to assist your own creation. However, asking AI to generate an original idea using your own personal intellectual property allows for something new – a piece that not only represents your own artistic capabilities but opens the doors for further creativity.