In a first for the world, South Korea recently sentenced a man to jail for generating sexually explicit images of children using artificial intelligence (AI), sparking the question of whether it’s okay to create depictions of illegal actions if no real person gets hurt.
Although the children in the images didn’t actually exist, the prosecutors argued — per CNN — that “sexually exploitative material should include descriptions of sexual behaviors by ‘virtual humans.’” This means that if the AI art/image looks realistic enough, South Korea can prosecute it in the same way they might pursue a real instance of exploitation.
In the U.S., however, the laws might function differently. The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression asserts that the Constitution protects artificial intelligence through the First Amendment which enshrines our right to free speech and expression, a protection that is further supported by courts that already consider computer code to be a form of speech.
Alternatively, those who want to limit AI’s reach argue that although free speech and expression applies to people, it does not extend to computers or artificial intelligence who aren’t independently-thinking/functioning humans, let alone American citizens. Supporters of this interpretation claim this means that artificially-generated images do not fall under the equal protection of the law.
“The popular opinion [among artists] is that we should be against AI since it’s just chopping up our art and basically making a Frankenstein-image of other artists’ work. I see what they mean, but I also do computer science, so I think that AI can work as a tool too. It can’t replace artists, but it can refine [our art],” senior Zining Cheng, a published artist and computer science student, said.The federal courts have already begun to interpret the law with regards to AI, ruling that AI-generated art does not fall under copyright laws. As AI becomes more advanced, the courts will have to interpret pre-existing laws in unique ways while the legislature passes new laws to manage the growing scope of AI.