How Generative AI Turns Copyright Upside Down

33 Pages Posted: 26 Jul 2023 Last revised: 18 Jan 2024

Date Written: July 21, 2023


While courts are litigating many copyright issues involving generative AI, from who owns AI-generated works to the fair use of training to infringement by AI outputs, the most fundamental changes generative AI will bring to copyright law don't fit in any of those categories. The new model of creativity generative AI brings puts considerable strain on copyright’s two most fundamental legal doctrines: the idea-expression dichotomy and the substantial similarity test for infringement. Increasingly creativity will be lodged in asking the right questions, not in creating the answers. Asking questions may sometimes be creative, but the AI does the bulk of the work that copyright traditionally exists to reward, and that work will not be protected. That inverts what copyright law now prizes. And because asking the questions will be the basis for copyright ability, similarity of expression in the answers will no longer be of much use in proving the fact of copying of the questions. That means we may need to throw out our test for infringement, or at least apply it in fundamentally different ways.

Keywords: AI, Artificial Intelligence, Generative AI, Copyright, Infringement, AI Outputs,

Suggested Citation

Lemley, Mark A., How Generative AI Turns Copyright Upside Down (July 21, 2023). Available at SSRN: or

Mark A. Lemley (Contact Author)

Stanford Law School ( email )

559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305-8610
United States

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