Monday 2 July 2012

Do computers dream of human beats?

I, Robot
On Sunday I met  a friend who had some sort of new Apple iPhone and his proudest app (yes, the one which will save humanity) was one which allowed him to sample a voice which can then be auto-snchronised with music generated by the phone. All well and good (and I rather liked saying 'Where's Captain Kirk', an old Spizzenergi punk classic and having random notes assigned) and I thought little more about this until this morning when the Guardian newspaper in the UK carried the story that the London Symphony Orchestra had agreed to play "Transits - into an Abyss", a composition written by Iamus. The twist? Iamus is a computer programme. Francisco Vico, leader of the team a the University of Malaga  who devised Iamus, named after the son of Apollo who could understand the language of birds, explains that using algorithms:

"Iamus generates an initial population of compositions automatically" adding "but their genomes are so simple that they barely develop into a handful of notes lasting just a few seconds" ..... "as evolution proceeds, mutations alter the content and size of this primordial genetic material and we get longer and more elaborate pieces. All the research team inputs is an approximate length and the instruments to be used (emphasis added). But they did, of course, create the original Iamus programme.

Likened to Bartok, Ligeto and Penderecki, the work will be streamed live from Malaga to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of  the father of modern computing Alan Turing, with a CD planned for September.  The programme can 'compose' and also produce variations of well known pieces or merge compositions. 

This Blog has asked its loyal and wonderful readership probing questions before - perhaps pertinently enquiring if  a monkey can be the "author" of a photograph (Aurelia J Schultz's most excellent blog Monkey See, Monkey Do, Monkey get copyright too? and Jeremy's blog here) which generated some excellent comments - and I wondered if anyone out there would like to add anything on the the idea of a computer programme self generating original music as an 'author' in light of the above - views from Europe post Infopaq and from other different jurisdictions would be most welcome. I've started it off - from a Brit's perspective!


dear3dreyfus said...

Things seem to be going that way: Iamus has built a database of music and anybody (musician or not) can now **own** their own pieces. May be royalties make no sense for music any longer.

Ben said...

Copyright and computer generated works - an Anglo-Saxon perspective:

So what is the United Kingdom’s position when it comes to authorship? Section 9 of the CDPA 1988 is still the relevant statutory provision – and this refers to authorship attached to a ‘person’ or persons if joint authors. Section 215 has similar provisions for the Design Right.

The Crown, Companies, partnerships and even unincorporated associations can have personality in law - and clearly under US laws there are provisions which allow companies to own copyright and in certain circumstances be the first owner. In the USA the Copyright Act of 1976 provides for corporate ownership of ‘works for hire’ made by employees, and Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 (the ‘Sonny Bono’ Act expressly recognised corporate authorship.

Section 9.1 CDPA says that “In this Part “author”, in relation to a work, means the person who creates it”. Section 9.2 goes to onto provide that this would be (a) in the case of a sound recording, the producer and in in the case of a film, the producer and the principal director (b) in the case of a broadcast, the person making the broadcast or, in the case of a broadcast which relays another broadcast by reception and immediate re-transmission, the person making that other broadcast (d) in the case of the typographical arrangement of a published edition, the publisher. Most importantly Section 9.3 says in the case of a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work which is computer-generated, the author shall be taken to be the person by whom the arrangements necessary for the creation of the work are undertaken (although see also S178 which may confuse this as this section accepts that there may be instances of “computer generated” works where there is no human author).

So 9.3 would suggest the author in the case of the music ‘composed’ by Iamus is the programming team (who may themselves have contracts of employment with the University in Malaga which might well make their efforts work for hire). But the team themselves have said that whilst they created the programme and the algorithms, and they specify the instruments to be used and the length of the piece, they do NOT compose the music and Iamus is no ‘mere tool’. Is it? I might suggest that Iamus is the composer – and this is real artificial intelligence. The programmers “gave birth” to Iamus. They are the parents – and whilst they may have trained Iamus, Iamus is now out on its own – like a child that grows up – and now creates in its own right. Whilst parents may take some credit for their offspring’s creative efforts, and even try to ‘manage’ their children’s careers, most recognise that they don’t own their children or their creative outputs.

For a US perspective post CONTU (1976) see

For the UK and in addition to the above, see Express Newspapers v Liverpool Daily Post and Echo (1995) where Whitford J applied the ‘mere tool’ principle and see Nova Productions v Mazooma Games (L2006) where section 9.3 CDPA was applied by Kitchen J who held that the author of on screen graphics generated by a programme in a game was the person who had devised the rules and logic used to create them.

In March 2012 a very interesting piece from an Australian perspective by Howard Williams and Cameron Andrews arrived, noting the potential for a ‘copyright gap’ with ‘authorless’ computer generated works, deprived of copyright protection It’s well worth a read here

Moral rights anyone?

Anonymous said...

A very well thought out response to another blog on the IPKat (but on a very similar subject matter) from Colin R Davies, Senior Lecturer, Intellectual Property Law, University of Glamorgan, here

BrainSmiths said...

Things seem to be going that way: Iamus has built a database of music and anybody (musician or not) can now **own** their own pieces. May be royalties make no sense for music any longer.

For solutions to your questions, visit :-