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Grace Jackson Wins First Place in Black Entertainment and Sports Lawyers Association Essay Competition

Pepperdine Caruso Law third-year student Grace Jackson has won first place in the Black Entertainment and Sports Lawyers Association essay competition. As a first-place winner, Jackson was awarded a scholarship and was recognized at the 43rd Annual Conference of the Black Entertainment and Sports Lawyers Association (BESLA), held on November 8 and 12 in the Dominican Republic.

Jackson was interested in attending the conference due to her deep passion for entertainment law. She says, "Being in the company of individuals working in the entertainment industry who can offer invaluable insight, inspiration, and guidance is a priority for me as I strive to pursue a career as an entertainment lawyer. BESLA holds a prominent position as a nationally recognized institution for legal education and professional development in the United States, particularly for lawyers and professionals working in the entertainment and sports industries. The organization is committed to establishing an ongoing networking environment and facilitating impactful legal employment opportunities for people of color. In fact, this year's conference was centered on building synergies, leveraging connections, and achieving impact. I recognized that participating in this conference would be a fantastic opportunity to form influential professional relationships with amazing attorneys and propel my career forward."

The annual essay competition promotes original and innovative research and writing on current industry-related subjects.  In choosing her essay topic, Jackson explains, "This year, student applicants were given the option to base their essays on the prevailing topics of Name, Image, and Likeness ('NIL') contracts, or Artificial Intelligence ('AI') generated creative products. While I find NIL deals intriguing and recognize their significance and impact within the sports industry, I found myself more familiar with and enthusiastic about the issues discussed in the AI essay topic. Additionally, my career aspiration is to work in the music and film industries, and I recognize that understanding copyright law and the factors influencing its application is essential to protecting the rights of my future clients. Therefore, to enhance my knowledge in this area and to make the essay-writing experience more enjoyable, I chose to focus my essay on AI generated creative works.

Jackson continues, "What intrigues me about AI is its remarkable ability to generate creative content and how it obtains this ability through a process called 'machine learning.' Interestingly, the BESLA scholarship essay centered on how AI obtains the ability to produce creative content and the potential legal implications associated with it. The essay topic posed specific questions, including whether work generated by AI, when guided by human instructions, could be considered human-authored. It also explored the copyrightability of the resulting AI-generated work and whether the AI developer should hold any copyright in such work. In response to these questions, I began by referring to the concept of 'human authorship,' as discussed in the U.S. Copyright Office's Copyright Registration Guide for works created by AI. According to the guide, a work is considered 'human authored' when traditional elements of authorship within the work, such as the 'literary, artistic, or musical expression or elements of selection, arrangement, etc.,' are created by a human. I argued that if a human's role is limited to providing the AI with instructions to guide it in generating content, typically involving a simple prompt or idea, as is often the case when AI is used in this context, the resulting work should not meet the criteria for copyright protection due to insufficient human authorship. This is because the human's input is limited to mere instructions or prompts, rather than any direct creative contribution to the final product generated by the AI.

"I applied a similar analysis to the question regarding whether an AI developer should be entitled to copyright ownership of the resulting work. While the Copyright Act does provide protection for original computer programs, AI is programmed through a process called 'machine learning,' which is a convenient alternative to the traditional method of programming where a developer would manually code the program for each specific task or set of instructions it might encounter. AI autonomously 'learns' and identifies patterns in datasets that contain human- generated content. This training enables the AI to make human-like predictions and decisions when presented with various prompts and instructions. Based on my research, I argued in the essay that, despite the AI being trained on a dataset prepared by its developer, it is the AI itself that ultimately makes the creative decisions in formulating the content it generates in response to prompts or instructions. Consequently, in my opinion, due to the minimal involvement of the human developer in contributing to the final AI-generated work, copyright ownership should be shifted away from the developer.

"The second part of the essay asked students to discuss the use of pre-existing creative works to 'train' AI as part of the machine learning process and the rights that the artists of these pre-existing works should retain in the AI-generated content. In the essay, I expressed my viewpoint that the fair use exception to copyright infringement could reasonably be applied in this context. This is because, even though AI is trained on pre-existing works generated by humans, its use of these works is arguably transformative. The pre-existing works used to train AI provide entertainment, insight, and/or knowledge, however, it is my understanding that the machine learning process uses these works to merely enable AI to identify patterns inherent in the pre-existing, human-generated works. This in turn allows the AI to later generate arguably 'human-like' content when responding to different prompts and instructions. However, I clarified in the essay that the potential for copyright infringement would likely depend on the prompt or instructions the AI is given and the content it generates in response to those instructions. If the AI’s response is sufficiently similar to a work within its training dataset, the author of that work should be able to exercise their copyright rights.

"However, I noted that an artificial intelligence company known as OpenAI stated that 'well- constructed AI systems generally do not regenerate, in any nontrivial portion, unaltered data from any particular work in their training corpus.' For the artists whose copyrighted works are used to train the AI, this unfortunately implies that infringement is a unlikely.

"I concluded the essay by acknowledging the undeniable impact of AI on the progress of technology and other fields. However, I argued that, to promote and maintain creativity in our society, copyright law should be revised in a way that upholds a fair balance between the advancements offered by AI and the preservation of intellectual property rights for human authors."

Jackson plans on practicing law in the area of AI generated creative works.

Jackson adds about the experience, "Prior to learning about my first-place win in the scholarship competition, I had the privilege of applying for and being chosen as a volunteer for the conference. I was aware that this opportunity to volunteer alone would provide me with a great opportunity to network with incredible professionals who hold honorable positions in the entertainment industry. My mentor suggested that I also participate in the essay competition for the possibility of being awarded a scholarship during the gala that will be held at the end of the conference. I am so glad I followed her recommendation because being both selected as a volunteer and winning the essay competition was an amazing surprise. I strongly believe in the notion that everything happens for a reason, and I anticipate my attendance at this conference having a meaningful impact on my journey to becoming an entertainment lawyer. I look forward to witnessing how God will use this conference experience to bless my career."