By: Julian Yau

In April of 2023, “Heart on My Sleeve” was released to rave reviews across various social media sites.[1] A mix of vocals from Drake and The Weekend, the song garnered high praise. The only issue – it was not a collaboration between Drake and the Weekend. Moreso, it was a collaboration between ‘Ghostwriter997’ and the artificial intelligence platforms that combined generated lyrics with audio clippings to effectively mimic each artist. Despite the positive online feedback, Drake and the Weekend’s legal teams issued copyright claims and successfully had the music removed. What seemed like unique circumstances will likely become increasingly common as artificial intelligence becomes more advanced and accessible. So, how are Canada’s copyright laws dealing with artificial intelligence, and how may it look in the future? 

What is the current legislation?

Given how recently artificial intelligence has entered mainstream use, there is currently no legislation specifically regulating its use with respect to copyright. Therefore, AI based work would fall under Canada’e existing copyright laws outlined in the Copyright Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. C-42).[2] Although produced through a novel process, court would likely find that using AI to replicate an artists voice is contrary to the Copyright Act. Section 3(1)(a) of the Act states that the original artist has the sole rights to ‘reproduce’ their work.[3] Since “Heart on My Sleeve” uses replicated singing, it, and all similar productions are likely contrary to act. Many artificial intelligence image and voice generation tools use a series of inputs derived from existing source material. For example, an AI generated image of a city landscape may have a small piece used from an already existing photo. It is still unclear whether this may be considered as copyright infringement under the Copyrigth Act, or if it may be seen as a new work altogether. 

Can AI claim copyright? 

Another interesting question is whether AI can claim copyright over its own work. For example, if AI generates the lyrics to a new song, would it be possible to use it for commercial purposes? Section 5(1)(a) of the Copyright Act states: 

            5 (1) Subject to this Act, copyright shall subsist in Canada, for the term 

hereinafter mentioned, in every original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic 

work if any one of the following conditions is met:

  • (a) in the case of any work, whether published or unpublished, including a cinematographic work, the author was, at the date of the making of the work, a citizen or subject of, or a person ordinarily resident in, a treaty country;

The wording of this section states that only a ‘citizen’ or ‘person’ may claim copyright over their work, inferring the exclusion of AI claims. However, it a person provides prompts to AI generated material, it may be possible for that individual to claim copyright over the resulting work.

What is the future legislation? 

It is still unclear how artificial intelligence will be regulated regarding copyright in the future. Canada’s Artificial Intelligence and Data Act (AIDA) is currently in Parliment for consideration, which will mark the first legislation directly addressing AI.[4] While the current version of the bill focuses on privacy rights and does not directly address copyright, perhaps future versions or legislation will provide more clarity on the issue. 

Disclaimer: The information provided in this response is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. The content provided does not create a legal client relationship, and nothing in this response should be considered as a substitute for professional legal advice. The information is based on general principles of law and may not reflect the most current legal developments or interpretations in your jurisdiction. Laws and regulations vary by jurisdiction, and the application and impact of laws can vary widely based on the specific facts and circumstances involved. You should consult with a qualified legal professional for advice regarding your specific situation.