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
    Noel Coward, 17 Feb 2011 @ 7:07pm


    It all gets a bit grey when information being copied, whether by scanning or otherwise, is TRANSFORMED into another FORM.

    A book being scanned, then turned into information on a hard drive does not constitute copyright infringement.
    Its how this new form is used whether it then beckons the question IF any copyright infringement has occurred. Like say if the new form competes with the original authors work.

    If Google books made available all of the authors works readily available and discoverable, so as to render the original form redundant. This would affect the author and be considered good grounds for infringement of Copyrights.

    Since they only make part of the works available, and they make efforts to prevent copying easily, they in fact offer a service to the author. By making available works not easily acquired and in a sense promote the author.

    By reading one applies a fuzzy logic and interpretation. So the question of duplication cannot be considered. If one were to possess such a memory, where by the person could furnish a copy word for word. Then only when the physical form were produced could there be a possible case for infringement.

    I've never met such an individual, only some rare gifted musicians with extraordinary memory. But they preferred to re-invent or interpret the works. As far as some Muslim cleric or muller that could recite the WHOLE Qur'an, well my friend thats Muslim propaganda. Its device is simply to make you believe they're special and GODS chosen. Chosen yes, but not for they think he has intended ;)

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