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AI is now generating a lot of content. Are copyright laws in the Middle East catching up?

Legal and technical experts discuss the intellectual property considerations and the ever-shifting international legislative landscape attempting to regulate AI-generated content.

AI is now generating a lot of content. Are copyright laws in the Middle East catching up?
[Source photo: Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

Today, artificial intelligence (AI) is ubiquitous and unavoidable. Whether it’s the detailed artwork generated by DALL-E to music, functional blocks of software code, and numerous other content types from ChatGPT, organizations see AI products’ immense potential in effectively creating commercial content. 

AI tools are unlocking a new dimension to content creation, helping brands tailor content that helps increase engagement and conversion. 

“However, the technology poses many challenges to lawmakers and law enforcement agencies,” says Munir Suboh, Partner at International Intellectual Property and Media group at Taylor Wessing. “Such as navigating the liabilities and obligations of service providers of AI solutions and applications, users and their rights, and entitlements to claim ownership and safety of contents.”


The blurred lines between human and AI contributions can complicate ownership rights, leading to legal uncertainties and potential disputes, especially as there is no universal standard, says Rashit Makhat, Director and Co-founder of Scalo Technologies.

AI creates unusual, unprecedented ethical issues. “Massive scale of infringement or misuse of IP rights from AI-generated contents may occur, and the mechanism to trace, enforce or tackle the issues could be nearly impossible for copyright owners,” says Suboh, adding that this could harm the continuity of relevant industries and demotivate people creating and innovating content.

The risk of substantial copyright infringement from AI-generated outputs also rises because of how AI tools are trained. “Generative AI systems usually require vast quantities of example materials to learn from and develop their algorithms,” says Matt Cloke, CTO of Endava. “Without transparency of what content is incorporated in training materials, users of an AI tool can’t be certain that the AI developers had the right to use all the materials.” 

Cloke adds that there are also ethical questions around author rights and how to ensure recognition and reimbursement for the use of original works. “Artists and creative industries are lobbying strongly against data mining exceptions to enable free training on published works,” he says. “However, there is a need to facilitate the advancement and progression of AI technology, which requires large data sets. This tension is unresolved.”


Against this backdrop, the challenge is the lack of proper regulations surrounding rights, liabilities, and expectations, which is the biggest obstacle for businesses and creators when assessing AI copyright ownership. 

“To benefit from copyright protection, a work must meet the ‘originality test,’” Cloke says, “which requires a protected work to be ‘original,’ meaning the author expended skill, labor, or judgment. It’s unclear how this applies to an AI system and whether a machine could meet these criteria.”

In the US, the Copyright Office only protects human-made works, not AI models. The European Union, which has a much more proactive approach to legislation than the US, is also working on an AI Act to tackle issues with GenAI.

The region is not falling behind in this unfolding narrative. The UAE’s proactive efforts towards establishing an AI national strategy. “It’s one of the very first nations, if not the first, to appoint a Minister for AI within its government,” says Suboh. 

Saudi Arabia is planning legislative solutions related to AI-related intellectual property rights. The first draft of the IP law sent for public consultation last year implied that AI’s products would be in the public domain and available for use unless linked to natural person contribution, that IP should support the progress of AI, and that the 

Saudi Intellectual Property Authority should have the ability to accelerate investment and motivation to advance this domain. 

But the question of what qualifies as a person’s contribution that would determine whether the work will enter the public domain and not be eligible for protection is left open. 

Experts say that in the UAE and other GCC region countries, initiatives to make the products from AI fall into the public domain are not being well-received by all stakeholders and are allegedly viewed as a step-back initiative that may limit the progress of science, investment in future technology, solutions, and advancement of artworks through AI. 


Varying copyright laws across countries are adding complications for global businesses. “The situation calls for urgent legal reforms or international treaties to resolve these issues,” says Makhat.

More regulations are expected to be introduced to address this. There has been a global move in this regard, such as the US Copyright Office’s ongoing initiative to examine copyright legal issues raised by AI and UKIPO’s Call for Views to assess potential changes required to the UK copyright framework. A key takeaway, however, was that it was too soon to redraft legislation.

“Technology in this area continues to evolve at a fast rate,” Cloke says, “As in the UK, legislators across the world may hesitate to make changes or updates to copyright laws while the technology used to create AI-generated works continues to change and evolve.” 

Currently, no rights are given to AI on copyrightable content, but this will be subject to further discussions and lobbying for some minimal rights to the beneficiaries, investors, or engineers who developed AI. 

A preventive measure could be that any entity, legal or natural, that develops AI or invests in advancing it should remain responsible for all its outputs, benefit from its results, and claim ownership of all liabilities or rights that can result from such a solution. “Even if such AI will evolve and bring new things that were not programmed or intended by its initiators, the liability should continue to be linked to its owner or future successors,” adds Suboh. 

Aside from regulation, technology companies also have a role to play in ensuring AI products are used responsibly and ethically. This, Cloke says, requires an assessment of each AI tool at a cross-functional level and due diligence from their risk angles, even if it means the outright ban of the use of certain AI tools.

The challenge is getting everyone working together to ensure AI empowers creativity and ethical content creation within a clear legal framework, Makhat adds.

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