Artificial Intelligence Systems-Aided News and Copyright: Assessing Legal Implications for Journalism Practices [review]


Automated news, or artificial intelligence systems (AIS)-aided production of news items, has been developed from 2010 onwards. It comprises a variety of practices in which the use of data, software and human intervention is involved in diverse degrees. This can affect the application of intellectual property and copyright law in many ways. Using comparative legal methods, we examine the implications of them for some legal categories, such as authorship (and hence required originality) and types of works, namely collaborative, derivative and, most especially, collective works. Sui generis and neighboring rights are also considered for examination as being appliable to AIS-aided news outputs. Our main conclusion is that the economics intellectual property rights are guaranteed in any case through collective works. We propose a shorter term of duration before entering public domain. Still, there is a place for more authorial, personal rights. It shows, however, more difficulty when coming to moral rights, especially in Common Law countries.


In recent times, the automated production of news items has joined the traditional human-only
creation of information. It has adopted many forms, at least from 2014 and 2015. This has been called
algorithm journalism [1,2] or robot journalism, but, in general terms, it is mentioned as automated
journalism [3,4], and it is the type of news item created with the aid of autonomous intelligent systems
(AIS) [5–7]. The technology “shall eventually lead to autonomous technology that can perceive, learn,
decide and create without any human intervention” [8]. The question of a gradual (even if partial, at
least for now) substitution of human by machines is in the background. The generation of new
professional skills and profiles is a trend, as well, that will continue in the coming years, as stated, for
instance, by [9].

This is clearly beyond the traditional use of some tools to produce copyrightable works, for
instance, photography [8] (p. 321) or word processors. To the extent journalists and the media use
software to help human to produce news, this is to be considered a protectable work. When machines
are able to produce news for themselves, with no human help—except for the design of the software
itself—then we are dealing with a different question. This kind of tool, which most likely will be
improved in the near future, poses some questions on intellectual property, which is the topic of this

Intellectual creation is a human activity in which we must include the varied forms of journalistic
works, from simple news to more elaborated features and articles. These fall within the works
protected by copyright and, in general terms, intellectual property law. We have to make an
important clarification of the terms to be used relating to intellectual property. While in the Common
Law legal tradition, it means copyright (which is called by legal doctrine in the other great legal tradition of the world, the so-called Civil Law tradition, authors’ rights) and designs, patents and
trademarks, in the Civil Law tradition, however, intellectual property is almost synonymous to
copyright-authors’ right law, and the rest is considered as being included within the industrial
property denomination. This may add some difficulty when comparing both legal traditions from a
transnational perspective, but it may, on the other hand, help in distinguishing the many implications
of the arrival of the different outputs produced using artificial intelligence on news reporting.

We have mentioned this aspect in some previous works [10] altogether with some other issues
of copyright law applied to the media and news reporting. It is our intention to explore the specific
aspects involved in automated news, or news produced with the aid of artificial intelligence. As a
starting point: to the extent that some human, substantial intervention is needed before the news item
is delivered to the public, copyright law may be applicable to the protection of such works. When
human intervention in minimal, unnecessary or accessorial, then we are dealing with a different legal
nature and protection. The degree of originality—understood as the application of intellectual human
skills in order to obtain a work—is a central requirement in copyright law, and even more so in the
Civil Law legal tradition, in which the author is at the very core of its conception. However, and even
if some national legal systems, such as the Spanish one (Art. 5.1 of the Spanish Copyright Act, TRLPI
1/1996, which states that only natural persons can be considered creators of literary, artistic or
scientific works), insist in considering that the only possible author needs to be human, there are
some other layers of rights appliable to other agents of intellectual creation. This is the case of the
collective works, singularly important in journalism, since media outputs are considered precisely
like that: a collection of works commissioned to (usually hired) journalists offered to the public as a
bunch produced under the investment and coordination of a corporate entity, instead of a natural
person. Those corporate entities have several rights under copyright law, and ultimately they have
fought, and gained to a great extent, a legal battle in the European Union to get an exclusive
exploitation right to confront the great news aggregators, like Google News [11].


Access to the full article


Díaz-Noci, Javier. Artificial Intelligence Systems-Aided News and Copyright: Assessing Legal Implications for Journalism PracticesFuture Internet 2020, 12, 85.