The Death of the AI Author

Posted on Monday, March 29, 2021


The University of Ottawa Centre for Law, Technology and Society and the Ottawa Law Review present,
in collaboration with the AI + Society Initiative:


The Death of the AI Author

Celebrating Ian R. Kerr


James Grimmelman and Michael Geist

in conversation with Carys Craig


Monday, March 29, 2021
at 11:30 ET


Watch The Video Now


As the Ottawa Law Review publishes “The Death of the AI Author”, by Carys J. Craig and Ian R. Kerr, join us for a celebration of Ian R. Kerr's last paper and groundbreaking scholarship.

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 “The Death of the AI Author”, Carys J. Craig and Ian R. Kerr argue that the threshold for authorship does not depend on the evolution or state of the art in AI or robotics. Instead, they 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, Carys J. Craig and Ian R. Kerr argue that the death of the romantic author also and equally entails the death of the AI author. They 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, Carys J. Craig and Ian R. Kerr 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, they 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 the law should — and should not — think about robots and AI, and their role in human relations.


Prof. James Grimmelmann will offer comments on the paper, followed by a conversation with Dr. Carys J. Craig and Dr. Michael Geist on the paper and Dr. Ian R. Kerr’s legacy.


The article is available in open access on Ottawa Law Review’s website, click here to read it.


About the Speakers


James Grimmelmann is the Tessler Family Professor of Digital and Information Law at Cornell Tech and Cornell Law School.

Michael Geist is the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, where is a Full Professor in the Faculty of Law, Common Law Section, and a Faculty member of the Centre for Law, Technology and Society.

Carys J. Craig is an Associate Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, where she is the Academic Director of the Professional LLM Program in Intellectual Property Law, and Editor-in-Chief of the Osgoode Hall Law Journal.



Florian Martin-Bariteau is the University of Ottawa Research Chair in Technology and Society and an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Ottawa, where he notably leads the university’s Centre for Law, Technology and Society, and the AI + Society Initiative.



This event will be in English only.
This event will be recorded.

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