New associate dean of research Carys Craig contends copyright could ‘make or break’ AI

Professor Carys Craig on white background
Associate Dean (Research & Institutional Relations) and Professor Carys Craig

Professor Carys Craig is stepping into Osgoode’s lead research role at a time when her own scholarship is posing fundamental questions about society’s next technological shift and the future of artificial intelligence (AI).

Craig, who will serve as Osgoode’s Associate Dean (Research and Institutional Relations) over the next year, argues in a series of recent articles and presentations that the text and data mining required for artificial intelligence to produce anything could potentially clash with copyright law, significantly hampering the development of the technology or changing its direction.

“The way I see it now, copyright is the thing that could make or break AI,” she said. “The question about whether training AI involves making copies that constitute copyright infringement is an enormous issue.”

Craig, an internationally recognized intellectual property (IP) law expert who served in the same role from 2014 to 2017, said that, more than ever, the interaction of law and technology is forcing legal scholars to re-examine legal principles and concepts that may have been taken for granted – especially when it comes to artificial intelligence (AI). In many areas, she added, Osgoode is at the forefront of that process.

“When you have a technology that has this paradigm-shifting capacity,” she observed, “suddenly you’re looking at the law and you’re thinking, well, we always knew, for example, what copyright laws protected when something was authored, but we didn’t really know what an author was because we hadn’t really encountered that question before.”

“We want to future-proof the law,” she added, “but we need to understand that the law will evolve and so we need to look at how technology is shaping the law, as well as the potential for the law to shape technology.”

In her role as Associate Dean (Research and Institutional Relations), Craig said she will be focused on continuing to enhance Osgoode’s vibrant research community post-pandemic, supporting its researchers, communicating their successes, and improving the public’s understanding of the importance of legal research.

Gauging the impact of research in the law may differ from other disciplines, she noted.

“We’re looking at things like the capacity to impact policy development by lawmakers,” she explained, “to have influence on decisions of the courts, as well as to be advancing the scholarly and academic conversation around the philosophies of law, the broader social goals and roles of law.”

In particular, Craig said, she will work hard to ensure that students feel that they’re an integral part of Osgoode’s research community. The law school’s curriculum aids in that by ensuring students are engaged in legal research and scholarly writing, especially with its upper-year writing requirement,  editorial opportunities with its leading law journals and the annual JD Research Symposium.

“It’s easy for them to get caught up in their studies and their deadlines and their exams and their grades, but being at Osgoode gives you a real opportunity to participate in an intellectual community,” she said. “We want to see the students here and engaged in that scholarly conversation.”

In addition to her role as an associate dean, Craig is director of IP Osgoode, which explores legal governance issues at the intersection of intellectual property (IP) and technology. She is also Editor-in-Chief of the Osgoode Hall Law Journal. A recipient of multiple teaching awards, she is often invited to share her work and expertise with academic audiences, professional organizations, policymakers and the press. Her publications are regularly cited in legal arguments and judicial opinions, including in several landmark rulings by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Craig’s recent works on AI and copyright law include:

Legal reform to enhance global text and data mining research: Outdated copyright laws around the world hinder research” 378(6623) SCIENCE 951-53 (2 December 2022)

The AI-Copyright Challenge: Tech-Neutrality, Authorship, and the Public Interest” in Ryan Abbott (ed), Research Handbook on Artificial Intelligence and Intellectual Property (Edward Elgar, 2022)

Review Essay, “The Relational Robot: A Normative Lens for AI Legal Neutrality – Reviewing Ryan Abbott, The Reasonable Robot (Cambridge University Press, 2020)” 25(1) Jerusalem Law Review 24-39 (2022).

AI and Copyright” in Florian Martin-Bariteau & Teresa Scassa (eds), Artificial Intelligence and the Law in Canada (LexisNexis, 2021), and

The Death of the AI Author” with Ian Kerr, 52(1) Ottawa Law Review 33-86 (2021).