The Death of the AI Author

42 Pages Posted: 17 May 2019

See all articles by Carys J. Craig

Carys J. Craig

Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, Toronto

Ian R. Kerr

University of Ottawa - Common Law Section

Date Written: March 25, 2019


Much of the second-generation literature on AI and authorship asks whether an increasing sophistication and independence of generative code should cause us to rethink embedded assumptions about the meaning of authorship, arguing that recognizing the authored nature of AI-generated works may require a less profound doctrinal leap than has historically been suggested. In this essay, we argue that the threshold for authorship does not depend on the evolution or state of the art in AI or robotics. Instead, we contend that the very notion of AI-authorship rests on a category mistake: it is not an error about the current or potential capacities, capabilities, intelligence or sophistication of machines; rather it is an error about the ontology of authorship.

Building on the established critique of the romantic author figure, we argue that the death of the romantic author also and equally entails the death of the AI author. We provide a theoretical account of authorship that demonstrates why claims of AI authorship do not make sense in terms of 'the realities of the world in which the problem exists.' (Samuelson, 1985) Those realities, we argue, must push us past bare doctrinal or utilitarian considerations of originality, assessed in terms of what an author must do. Instead, what they demand is an ontological consideration of what an author must be. The ontological question, we suggest, requires an account of authorship that is relational; it necessitates a vision of authorship as a dialogic and communicative act that is inherently social, with the cultivation of selfhood and social relations as the entire point of the practice. Of course, this ontological inquiry into the plausibility of AI-authorship transcends copyright law and its particular doctrinal conundrums, going to the normative core of how law should — and should not — think about robots and AI, and their role in human relations.

Keywords: Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Creativity, Authorship, Romantic Author, Copyright, Dialogism, Relational Theory

JEL Classification: O31, O33, O34, O35, K39

Suggested Citation

Craig, Carys J. and Kerr, Ian R., The Death of the AI Author (March 25, 2019). Osgoode Legal Studies Research Paper, Available at SSRN: or

Carys J. Craig (Contact Author)

Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, Toronto ( email )

4700 Keele Street
Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3
416 736 5189 (Phone)
416 736 5736 (Fax)


Ian R. Kerr

University of Ottawa - Common Law Section ( email )

57 Louis Pasteur Street
Ottawa, K1N 6N5
613-562-5800 (Phone)

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics