Intellectual Property & Artificial Intelligence: Chat GPT – A Battle Against Plagiarism in the Realm of Academic Essays
If Roberto Nevelis, the alleged mastermind behind homework1, were alive today, he would have been dismayed by the revolutionary transformation that is currently sweeping through the educational realm, redefining the very essence of school evaluation. The revolution’s name is ChatGPT. In just two months since its launch, ChatGPT had garnered an impressive 100 million active users, a feat that took TikTok, one of the most widely used social media platforms, nine months to accomplish.2 The extraordinary success of ChatGPT has resulted in Open AI being valued at a staggering $29 billion.3 Such is the magnitude of ChatGPT’s power that within just a few months of its release, some developers were already busy creating counter-applications (e.g. GPT Zero) to prevent its potential misuse.4 If you are itching to know why ChatGPT has become a sensation, look no further than its unparalleled ability to deliver eloquent and comprehensive answers on a wide range of topics. This “genius” chatbot, dubbed Chat Generative Pre-Trained Transformer, harnesses the power of artificial intelligence to provide users with relevant information in an engaging chat format while also being capable of acknowledging its mistakes and questioning incorrect premises.5
One of the most inspiring (yet equally alarming) potentials of ChatGPT, is its ability to generate coherent text in mere seconds that is indistinguishable from human-written text.6 In academic circles, this ability to produce essays that mirror human writing style has sparked an intense debate in the area of intellectual property infringement, as it concerns plagiarism. In this blog, the author will highlight how ChatGPT has affected academic essay writing, with a particular focus on the challenges that arise concerning plagiarism and intellectual property theft. The author’s focus in this blog is on ‘essays’ because firstly, ChatGPT has been proven very proficient in this area in comparison to other areas like accounting.7 Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, is because for a long time now, the essay-writing ability has largely been used as a measure of intelligence by educational institutions, among others.8 This is supported by the fact that despite the advances in technology and AI over the years, one aspect of education remained unchallenged: writing,9 until now. Therefore, with the emergence of advanced AI language models such as ChatGPT, the use of essays as metrics of intelligence and academic assessment will likely become redundant if they are not drastically re-evaluated.10
So far, there are those who have seen this AI as nothing short of a “blessing” to academic writing. Daniel Lametti, for example, a Canadian psycholinguist, insists that ChatGPT should be perceived in the same way a calculator was for mathematics; as a tool, as opposed to an enemy.11 The author agrees with this stance since it is highly unlikely that ChatGPT and other AI tools are banned from academic institutions. Even if they are, proving the use of ChatGPT in essays is very challenging in itself , thus it may be advisable to embrace ChatGPT, rather than fight it as AI will inevitably revolutionize academia. Additionally, Dr. Abdennasser Naji, a former adviser to the Minister of Higher Education and President of the Amaquen Institute, along with other proponents of AI, argue that the concerns surrounding “plagiarism” attributed to ChatGPT are baseless, suggesting that opposing ChatGPT’s usage is tantamount to hindering progress.12
However, there are opposing views that perceive ChatGPT as a threat in academia, citing issues of plagiarism and intellectual property theft. As it stands, this conundrum has already started manifesting in academic works. For instance, several papers have already listed ChatGPT as co-author.13 Additionally, some journals have already provided for the requirement that authors disclose use of AI in their work while others have out rightly banned crediting language models like ChatGPT as “co-author”.14 Not surprisingly, however, many institutions view the use of ChatGPT by students in writing essays as “cheating” because of the issues raised in relation to plagiarism and intellectual property theft such as in Antwerp University where a student is being investigated over a suspected ChatGPT generated paper.15 Students are now able to generate high quality essays without actually researching or writing them.16 Whether this is a good or bad thing, time will tell.
On one hand, plagiarism involves the use or reuse of words or ideas without proper acknowledgement, whereas copyright infringement involves the use or reuse of the fixation of the ideas of original literary works without obtaining permission.17 ChatGPT commits both offenses. Interestingly, ChatGPT itself agrees that the definition of “plagiarism” is the practice of utilizing the work or ideas of another individual without attributing proper credit to the original author.18 But when the work is generated by “something” rather than “someone”, does this definition still apply?19 Up to this point, courts, such as those in the United States, have held the view that in order for a work to be eligible for copyright protection under existing laws, it must be the outcome of creative authorship by a human author.20 For instance, in the Monkey Selfie dispute involving a monkey that had taken a selfie, the US courts determined that works by a non-human creator are not copyrightable.21 The same principles would apply to AI-created content.22 Similarly, in Kenya, Kenya’s Copyright Act defines an author as “the person” when referring to a specific work.23 The Act consistently uses the pronouns “her,” “she,” “his,” or “her” when referring to an author or owner.24 Therefore, under Kenya’s current legislation, it is unlikely that AI would be recognized as having the ability to be the author or owner of copyright in literary work.25 Ultimately, it is highly unlikely that courts will grant copyright to an entity with no legal personhood.26 Another related concern that arises in academic writing is the existing possibility of ChatGPT producing identical responses for two different users, thus, it may be challenging for either party to pursue legal action against the other due to the defense of independent creation. To successfully file a copyright infringement claim, the plaintiff must provide evidence of copying, but independent creation can serve as a complete defense. In this hypothetical scenario, neither party copied the other’s work, thus making it unlikely for an infringement claim to succeed. 27
In conclusion, the increasing prevalence of Artificial Intelligence tools like Chat GPT has brought about a corresponding increase in the risks to intellectual property, particularly within academia. Nonetheless, fighting the use of ChatGPT in essay-writing is a seemingly losing battle. Moreover, proving the use of ChatGPT in literary works is proving to be a challenge in itself. Sooner, rather than later, we ought to come to the acceptance that a new era of education is here, and the best thing to do is adapt. Therefore we need to invest more in a collaborative approach that looks towards Human-AI collaboration for higher quality work. Moving forward, it remains crucial to appreciate that despite the beneficial impact of AI, there is a need for caution where AI technologies should be employed in a manner that is impartial and just and does not unfairly affect Intellectual Property rights or marginalize specific groups of individuals.28
1 FaithTracey, ‘The Origin Of Homework And the Mastermind Behind it’ <https://ke.opera.news/ke/en/education/33fbb7793aa023bf9439bb52cf05bae4 >
2 Ortiz Sabrina, ‘What is ChatGPT and why does it matter? Here’s everything you need to know’ <“What is ChatGPT and why does it matter? Here’s what you need to know”>.
4 Rosalsky Greg; et al. ‘This 22-year-old is trying to save us from ChatGPT before it changes writing forever’ <“This 22-year-old is trying to save us from ChatGPT before it changes writing forever”>.
6 Rosalsky Greg (n4)
8 Measures of Intelligence. Authored by: OpenStax College. Located at: <https://openstax.org/books/psychology-2e/pages/7-5-measures-of-intelligence>.
10 Stokel-Walker, ‘AI bot ChatGPT writes smart essays — should professors worry?’ <“AI bot ChatGPT writes smart essays — should professors worry?”>.
11 Lukas Stock, ‘ChatGPT is changing education, AI experts say — but how?’ <https://www.dw.com/en/chatgpt-is-changing-education-ai-experts-say-but-how/a-64454752>
12 Wagdy Sawahel,‘Embrace it or reject it? Academics disagree about ChatGPT’
13 Marche Stephen, “The College Essay Is Dead”. https://flipboard.com/topic/educationtechnology/the-college-essay-is-dead/a-_vEGJWblQTqI4M2l2WgpsA%3Aa%3A84975642-9fd6da3e3b%2Ftheatlantic.com
15 Nick Amies ‘Antwerp University investigates student over suspected Chat GPT-generated paper’ <https://www.brusselstimes.com/363585/antwerp-university-investigates-student-over-suspected-chat-gpt-generated-paper>
16 Greengard Samuel, ‘ChatGPT: Understanding the ChatGPT AI Chatbot’ <https://www.eweek.com/big-data-and-analytics/chatgpt/> .
17 Murray L. J. ‘Plagiarism and Copyright Infringement: The Costs of Confusion’ University of Michigan Press, 2008, 173–182.
18 ChatGPT Is Making Universities Rethink Plagiarism
20‘Copyrightable Authorship: What Can Be Registered’ 7.
21 Naruto v. Slater(2018),Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal.
22 Elise Steegstra ‘Whose Copyright Is It? Legal Takeaways Regarding Using ChatGPT’
23 Section 2 of the Copyright Act, 2001.
24 Sections 23, 31, 35, and 45 of the Copyright Act, 2001.
25 Cynthia Nzuki ‘intellectual Property And Artificial Intelligence: Can Artificial Intelligence Receive Copyright Protection?<https://cipit.strathmore.edu/intellectual-property-and-artificial-intelligence-can-artificial-intelligence-receive-copyright-protection/ >
26 Yu, R. ‘The Machine Author: What Level Of Copyright Protection Is Appropriate For Fully Independent Computer-Generated Works?’ University of Pennsylvania Law Review, 165(5), 1245–1270.
27 Joe McKendrick, ‘Who Ultimately Owns Content Generated By ChatGPT And Other AI Platforms?’
28 Perrigo Billy, ‘AI Chatbots Are Getting Better. But an Interview With ChatGPT Reveals Their Limits’ <https://time.com/6238781/chatbot-chatgpt-ai-interview/>.