by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
copyright, jeopardy, scanning, watson


Did Watson Succeed On Jeopardy By Infringing Copyrights?

from the good-questions dept

An anonymous tipster points us to a really interesting comment by Peter Hirtle on a post discussing Watson, the Jeopardy-playing computer, where he asks whether or not Watson infringes on copyrights:
From IBM’s Watson Supercomputer Wins Practice Jeopardy Round in Wired Magazine: "Researchers scanned some 200 million pages of content -- or the equivalent of about one million books -- into the system, including books, movie scripts and entire encyclopedias."

It seems unlikely that IBM got permission to scan one million books. Can we expect soon a lawsuit from the Author's Guild against IBM and the producers of Jeopardy! (which, after all, is profiting from this scanning)?
This is a really good point and (once again) highlights the ridiculousness of copyright in certain circumstances. Of course, your viewpoint on this may depend heavily on whether or not you believe Google's book scanning infringed on copyright (I don't). But, for those who do, do you believe that IBM's scanning of books does infringe? Technically, it's the same basic process. In fact, you could argue that with Watson it's much more involved, because Watson then actually made use of the actual data to a much greater extent than Google did with Google books.

But, really, a bigger point is how this highlights one of the oddities of copyright. If you read something and retain it in your brain, is that infringement? Most people say no, of course. Now, if a computer "reads" something and retains it in memory is that infringement? Well, that's a bit more borderline according to many. So take it a step further and as we reach the point that people can augment their wetware brains with computer brains... when do we hit a copyright infringement issue?

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  1. identicon
    DogBreath, 17 Feb 2011 @ 1:51pm


    So can a computer be guilty of copyright infingment and how can it be made to pay if it is?

    Hard to say, but I guess it would depend on what was thought about copyright infringement by the programmers that built Watson.

    After all it was Dr. Richard Daystrom's human engrams that caused the M5 computer to try and self terminate for the crime of murder after attacking the U.S.S. Lexington, killing 53, then destroying all starfleet personnel aboard the U.S.S. Excalibur.

    If Watson had the engrams from someone like the MPAA or RIAA, then the supercomputer is turning over all relevant logs and data right now (to help in the lawsuits against IBM that's are sure to come from everywhere) before self terminating.




    Jeopardy Champion - Copyright Infringer

    "As smart as I was, I didn't think of the children"

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