The Hollywood A.I.-I.P. Supernova

Arnold Shwarzenegger
(Photo by Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Getty Images
Eriq Gardner
May 2, 2022

The A.I. Wars are almost here. No, I’m not talking about Terminator or even a crackdown on Twitter bots. Instead, we’ll soon be witnessing a series of extraordinary test cases designed to force the American legal system to reconsider the concept of authorship as artificial intelligence begins to write short stories or pop songs. It may sound like a Zuckerbergian fever dream, but A.I. could soon be creating blockbuster movies and life-saving pharmaceuticals, too—multi-billion dollar products with no human creator.

The legal battle has already begun. Sometime in the next couple of weeks, I’ve learned, a lawsuit will be filed that challenges the U.S. Copyright Office’s recent decision to deny an “author” identified as “Creativity Machine.” Then, a few weeks later, a federal appeals court will hear oral arguments in Thaler v. Hirshfeld, an under-the-radar but potentially blockbuster case concerning whether A.I. can be listed as the “inventor” in a patent application. Meanwhile, authorities in the European Union and 15 other countries are being asked to make similar determinations to properly credit the achievements of A.I.

The instigator for all this action is a Yale-trained lawyer named Ryan Abbott, a globetrotting, modern-day renaissance man who has recruited Dr. Stephen Thaler, a pioneer in the field of A.I. who developed the Creativity Machine and other modern engineering marvels, as his model client. Abbott, a partner at the Los Angeles-based firm Brown Neri Smith & Khan, also has a medical degree from the University of California, San Diego, and is a scholar. Besides practicing law, both in the United States and England, he teaches at the University of Surrey School of Law and the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.