Innovation and enterprise blog

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Introduction

This blog is written by members of the Business & IP Centre team and some of our expert partners and discusses business, innovation and enterprise. Read more

29 May 2024

Scarlett Johansson Vs. OpenAI: The blurred IP lines between human and machine

What data is being used to feed the ‘learning machine’?

Another AI-generated storm has occurred with the recent news that a chatbot voice created by OpenAI sounds eerily similar to Hollywood star, Scarlett Johansson. The story takes a more unusual turn, with claims by Johansson that she was asked by the same company to be a chatbot voice, refusing the offer a number of times. 

It seems the boundaries between human and machine are now completely blurred. The inexorable rise in the power and utility of generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) is producing case after case of controversy, ethical debates and inevitable concerns about where it’ll all end.  

Generative AI is artificial intelligence that is capable of creating text, videos, images or other data that has similar characteristics to the ‘training data’ used to create them. The question as to whether these works are original creations in and of themselves is hotly contested. 

However, Scarlett Johansson’s case is not the first time that generative AI has fallen afoul of celebrities and artists. Tom Hanks warned of a fake ad using his image to promote a dental plan he did not endorse. Musicians Drake and The Weeknd have experienced having their voices used to create an entirely new song, not of their creation. AI software was trained using their vocals and that was the key to the generative work being created: called, ‘Heart on My Sleeve’, it was subsequently dropped from streaming services after protests from the artist’s music labels. 

The question now with Johansson’s example is whether it’s all just an unfortunate coincidence that the voice of OpenAI’s, ‘Sky’, ended up sounding too similar to Johansson. And how was that voice created? Who owns the final product? 

In times like these, who else can you call, but an Intellectual Property lawyer? 

Where is the intellectual property? If Johansson decides to pursue a case of infringement against OpenAI, she can call upon laws in most US states known as ‘publicity laws’. These work in a similar way to other IP laws, in that the individual is ‘the product’. This means that they have the right to control the commercial use of their name, likeness, image or identity.  

In the case of Johansson, it’s the use of her voice.  

It’s no surprise to discover that the state of California, being the home of Hollywood, has such a law. (We don’t have an equivalent in the UK, but we do have other laws that can be stitched together to do the same thing). 

In fact in the US, legislators are right now actively looking at strengthening federal laws to provide further clarity on individuals and usage rights. Recent debate around the proposed bill for a NO FAKEs Act addresses these issues directly. 

Meanwhile, in the UK there seems to be a growing consensus in reasserting the interpretation of ‘data mining’ in existing UK copyright law to mean the use of data (for machine learning) only for non-commercial purposes. This is significant as it precludes the commercial use of data mining by AI companies.  It’s all in the prompts. 

Artificial-Intelligence

Two sides to every case

The creators of generative AI have some arguments in their defence too. For an AI platform to generate an image, voice or text, word commands called prompts need to be used. And there is growing recognition in the power and skill of using the best possible prompts to create the most desired output. Think of a very long and focused search engine description.  

In fact, these particular prompts can be so integral to the final generated product, that they can be considered a trade secret and even copyright. These are two existing IP rights used all over the world.  

So it’s advisable that creators (be they companies or individuals) record the prompts (but keep them secret) in order to prove the creative process and also potentially as a defence in case the output does inadvertently infringe someone else’s copyright (or publicity right for that matter).  

Moreover, companies like OpenAI are significantly investing in their platforms by feeding them with all the data they need. They also have an IP interest because there is an inherent novelty and commercial value in creating (and licensing) the platforms themselves. They too, are protected by intellectual property rights and copyright is the predominant IP protection for software. 

But, as ever, there’s another flipside, and that is the question of what data is being used to feed the ‘learning machine’? Is the data public domain information? Or is it under copyright? If it’s the latter, it carries real risks of a generative platform creating an infringed work. As they say across the pond; ‘garbage in, garbage out’. 

Human v Machine; who’s the creator? 

The big question remains, who owns the intellectual property in an AI creation? If I use a generative AI platform, can I claim ownership of the final product?  

The first thing is to always check the licence agreement of the platform you’re using, especially if there’s a clause where they keep a record of the prompts used, or if the generated image can be reused.  

In the United States, the question of whether an AI created product can itself be subject to copyright has been partly addressed with the recent case of graphic comic titled Zaraya of the Dawn. The United States Copyright Office rules that ‘works created with substantial AI input are not eligible for copyright protection in the United States.’ Interestingly, they did recognise that the prompts were a work of human authorship, so therefore falling under copyright, as were the text and arrangement of images, but not the resultant images itself. 

In the UK, the question is complicated further by an interpretation of what Section 178 of the Copyright, Designs and Patent’s Act (CDPA 1988) could mean in relation to AI today. In the Act copyright cannot vest in machines or non-human actors but if ‘in the resulting author of a computer-generated work is the person “by whom the arrangements necessary for the creation of the work are undertaken.”’ It takes a sharp legal mind and a good case to define how that could be interpreted! Any interesting broader summary for existing UK copyright law and AI can be read here. 

It’s complicated... but also clear 

As the world begins to adapt to the massive disruption that AI will create, it’s safe to say that some boundaries have been drawn and clear sides are taken.  

  1. If you’re creating any original work of any kind, you have rights over that work. Nothing has changed. 
  2. If you’re using AI generated work, your ownership of work is open to question and at times challenged depending on the way national laws are interpreted, and the terms and conditions of the platform creating it. Best to seek legal advice for your particular context. 
  3. If you’re an AI developer, you are at risk if the data you’re training your machine learning on is potentially copyrighted. So legal advice around taking protective measures against the risk of infringement or seeking permissions to use that content is a necessity.  

Further useful guides on all can be found on some law firms, such as here. 

Regardless of who will win the IP wars between humans and machines, a human is still a human and their voice will always belongs to them. In our age of digital disruption, Scarlett Johansson may well be helping us all find our voice, and keep it too. 

Written by Jeremy O’Hare, Research and Business Development Manager at the BIPC.

15 May 2024

Two worlds collide: when your family member becomes your business partner

What's it really like to have a family member that's also your business partner? In honour of International Day of Families, we caught up with just some of the family-run businesses that we have supported on their journeys to success.

Buttercrumble

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Abigail founded creative design consultancy 'Buttercrumble' with her twin sister Chloe, and we are proud to have supported them through our scale-up programme Get Ready For Business Growth (applications are now open, email [email protected]).

What made you decide to set up a business together? 

"Ever since we can remember, we’ve loved collaborating. As children, we’d always be drawing joint pictures together. We had a creative calling, and knew we wanted this to be our career. It would be rare to find a workplace that would employ both of us simultaneously, so we made our own opportunities. We’re following our passion and we love it!"

What is it like having a business partner as a family member?

"Comforting. You have to trust your business partner completely because business is tough! When we work together, we know we’ll receive honest feedback and authentic support. It’s in our best interests to help each other out. We feel fortunate knowing someone always has our back."

What’s your favourite thing about working with a family member?

"We see each other nearly every day! Yes, sometimes it can be intense, but we’re grateful for all the time we can spend together doing something we enjoy. We get to share in the successes, and that benefits the rest of our family too. It brings everyone together."

Is it hard to separate family time and work time?

"Whenever we go out for a casual coffee date, we always end up talking about business. It’s tricky, but we enjoy our work, so sometimes we can’t help ourselves. That said, it’s important to take breaks. It can help to bring along friends and other family members to curb our work chat. It helps to have hobbies too!"

What advice do you have to anyone who is looking to go into business with a family member?

"Separate business from personal matters. It’s easier said than done. We continue to learn, but we must retain professionalism when we’re working with our clients. Sort out squabbles outside of the office! Don’t let them harm your business efforts."

You can hear Chloe speak about collaborating with her sister at our Start-Up Stars: Creative Collaboration event next week - an evening of inspiration and networking as successful creative businesses tell their collaboration stories. Book your free ticket here.

London Fine Art Studios

Design studio

Ann founded 'London Fine Art Studios', a school dedicated to teaching the classical techniques of drawing and painting, with her twin sister Clare and husband Scott. They also received support from our Get Ready For Business Growth programme.

What made you decide to set up a business together?

"As family members you know you can trust their work ethic and that they have your best interests at heart."

What is it like having a business partner as a family member?

"I work with both my husband and my twin sister. I think it can be very amazing as you can short cut so many questions and you know you don't need to worry about how you phrase things or if you upset each other as it is more important to be time efficient."

What’s your favourite thing about working with a family member?

"It's nice to be able to see them every day and at meal times: it allows you to get to know them so well."

Is it hard to separate family time and work time?

"This is the only downside, as often my husband will want to talk about work at home. We all need switch off time, and it can sometimes be unfair on the children if work is always being brought up."

What advice do you have to anyone who is looking to go into business with a family member?

"Establish your boundaries before you start. See that person in a working environment, both in terms of their work ethic and how they treat other people. I worked with my husband for five years in a separate business before we set up our own business. It is obviously great if the work is going well, but also can be nice if one of the couple has a steady income."

Ann will also be speaking at the Start-Up Stars: Creative Collaboration event, find out more.

Sweet Paper Creations

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Patty founded handmade piñata brand 'Sweet Paper Creations' with her eldest child Ali. They received business support from their local BIPC and are now business ambassadors for our BIPC Local in Waltham Forest.

"When Ali was struggling with their mental health, I didn't know how to help or motivate them, so I started making piñatas as a relief strategy to cope with the waiting time to see a professional. We found that making piñatas together allowed us to relax and simply exist around each other, and this led to us setting up our business, as well as being able to open up to each other. 

Working together has been quite a journey, but it always brings a great feeling of achievement. From the very beginning, we decided to differentiate between the roles of mother and child and allocate responsibilities to each other. This has helped us to stay organised and on track. We have established effective communication and mutual respect for each other's abilities and roles."

Thinking of starting up with a family member? Sign up for our free Kickstart Your Business programme that offers tailored, accessible workshops and webinars to help you on your business journey. Topics covered include financing your business, researching your market and protecting your business's intellectual property. Find out more here and sign up today!

10 May 2024

Starting up? Here are top tips from business owners to help you on your journey

Happy Small Business Day! We are proud that supporting small businesses is at the heart of what we do here at the Business & IP Centre (BIPC). This year we reached out to some of our BIPC London business ambassadors, as well as entrepreneurs who received help on their business journey through their local BIPC resources and our Get Ready For Business Growth programme, to provide advice on coping with the inevitable stresses of starting up. 

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1. Celebrate the small wins

"Celebrate every small win. When you’re motivated your creativity improves and it’s easier to develop new solutions for business-related problems or invent new products. The connection between physical and mental health is stronger than I thought. It’s important to exercise both mind and body to fully use all your skills on your business. Female entrepreneurs can often face a wider range of challenges: in my case I’ve started my pre-menopause at 42. This brings short periods of depression and lack of sleep, some mornings I don’t want to even get out of bed. It’s difficult, but exercise helps a lot."

- Judy Chicangana, Founder of Delmora and BIPC Local Bromley business ambassador

Dana

2. A SMART tip

"It is so common to experience stress if you're a small business owner: it's practically inevitable, unfortunately. To cope with the pressure, I recommend setting SMART goals for your business (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely). I always reassess priorities and break down tasks into manageable steps. It's also crucial to ask for help when you need it - reach out for support from mentors and professional networks as they will help you to see the bigger picture. For example, the Get Ready for Business Growth Programme helped us to put things into perspective when it comes to diversifying our revenue streams and organising internal processes. It's worth remembering that challenges are only a natural part of growth!"

- Dana Storo, Co-founder of Codex Anatomicus and Get Ready For Business Growth graduate

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3. Visit your local BIPC

"Running a business is a challenging endeavour, especially in the beginning, and new business owners have a lot to learn. My advice would be to visit your local BIPC for business support instead of struggling to work things out for yourself. This, in turn, will reduce your stress levels and give you breathing space. When things feel too much it's important to take some time out to think and do something that excites you. Spend time with good friends and loved ones. That experience will boost your mood and confidence."

Find your local BIPC here. 

 

4. Networking is key

“If we were to give any advice to small businesses it would be to invest in and harness the power of your network. When we started TwelveTwentyFive we secured our first clients through our network and quickly learnt that we needed to develop it and curate it. Through the support of BIPC Northamptonshire and their in-person and online sessions, events and training we've been able to grow our network of like-minded small and start-up business owners. Through their Build Your Business grant we have been able to invest in our podcast 'Building' and are now featuring many guests who we met through the BIPC network.”

- Harry and Brendan, Founders of TwelveTwentyFive

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5. Put yourself first

"In the whirlwind of entrepreneurship, prioritising yourself is essential. Remember our guiding principle: 'Put Yourself First.' Your wellbeing is the cornerstone of your business's success. Feeling stressed? Just pause, breathe and prioritise self-care. Lean on support networks like BIPC; you're not alone. Be courageous in reaching out for assistance in areas causing stress. As coaches, we know this will help you navigate challenges, ensuring both you and your business thrive."

 

6. Get out there and grow

"Immerse yourself in as many events and exhibitions as possible. This exposure not only fosters business growth but also provides a wealth of motivation from observing fellow entrepreneurs. The most significant support from BIPC Northamptonshire wasn't just the grant I received, it was the networking opportunities that really made a difference. Although the financial support was a bonus, it was the connections that proved invaluable. The guidance on constructing a robust business plan and continued support from the BIPC were true game changers for me."

- David Sikharulidze, CEO of Mavis Technologies 

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7. It's a marathon, not a sprint

"Slow progress is better than no progress. Always think about the compound effect when starting a business: doing small things frequently adds to the big achievements over time. Your business journey is a marathon, not a sprint, so stay focused on your lane and compete with nobody but yourself. I recommend using the business tools and networking events that the BIPC offer to equip you with the knowledge to navigate your start-up journey and meet other like-minded business owners with whom you can share ideas and gain inspiration from. Whenever you feel stressed in your business journey, remember why you started: when you find your why, you'll find your way!"

- Mel Nichols, Founder of Chayses Boys Book Club 

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8. Ask for expert advice at your BIPC

"It can be really overwhelming when you start off as a business, especially for a grassroots not for profit like us at WIILMA that doesn't quite fit into a particular box. However, my BIPC consultant really helped to identify and break goals down into small, manageable steps. They revisited these with me, and also checked in on how life commitments were going too, so I didn't feel alone through the process."

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9. Rome wasn't built in a day

"When starting a business, it's important to understand the purpose behind it before thinking about scaling. When your business provides solutions to problems, your business success will speak for itself through your clients. Remember the organisations and brands you buy from did not scale in one day; it took centuries and decades of hard work, dedication and the willingness to persevere amongst the delays they encountered. As a book publishing company, we continue to emulate gradual growth as we understand the needs of creative writers and use our platform to represent and support other local businesses. Our role as a BIPC Business Ambassador is to give value and support first-time and established business owners on their building journey. We are aware that running a business is not an overnight success but takes patience, tenacity and the willingness to come out of your comfort zone."

Esther Solomon-Turay, Founder of Authentic Worth and BIPC Local Lewisham business ambassador 

 

Kickstart Your Business

If you're thinking about starting up but aren't sure where to begin, sign up for our free Kickstart Your Business programme that offers tailored, accessible workshops and webinars to help you on your business journey. Topics covered include financing your business, researching your market and protecting your business's intellectual property. Find out more here and sign up today!

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