Generative artificial intelligence

By the Copyright Advisory Committee, with the help of dan brown, Professor, Cheriton School of Computer Science

Generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) and related technologies are subject to existing laws and regulations in Canada, such as intellectual property, copyright and privacy laws, among others. The legal status (e.g., copyright legislation and case law) of GenAI services is currently unsettled in Canada. This guide is designed to help you make an informed decision about using GenAI-created content. For further teaching and learning considerations, see the AVPA FAQ on ChatGPT and GenAI.

Concerns in brief

  1. Source material used to train the system must be legally copied. GenAI services rarely share information about their source material, so its legality is often difficult to verify and
  2. Impossible to attribute accurately.
  3. Copyright ownership of GenAI content is unclear in Canada. Because AI-generated content may not be protected by copyright, creators may not benefit financially or professionally. Moreover, the rights of creators whose copyright material was used to train AI systems, and generate content, remains unsettled.
  4. There has not been any AI-specific legislation or case law in Canada. The lack of copyright legislation would not preclude GenAI services from making a fair dealing argument or using other Copyright Act exceptions, though depending on the use case it may be a challenging argument to make.1 Several copyright-infringement lawsuits have been filed in the United States against GenAI services and new lawsuits and threats of litigation continue to emerge on a regular basis.

What follows will discuss these four points in more detail. We recommend that you Exercise Caution when using AI services.


Exercise caution

We understand that use of GenAI services is widespread, not only at Waterloo, but across the higher education sector and in the general public. In certain areas, particularly in classes where you are teaching about AI, avoiding its use would be a detriment to your students. The following are recommendations for principled, risk-informed use of AI services.

  1. Ensure the use of GenAI content directly pertains to the learning objectives of your course/module. A direct connection to an educational purpose strengthens any argument that you might make under the fair dealing exception of the Copyright Act.
  2. Read the terms and conditions of the service and take note of your rights and responsibilities under the terms. Pay attention to requirements for attribution and responsibilities for use of the content. For example:
    1. ChatGPT
    2. Midjourney
    3. StableDiffusion
  3. Keep records. Make notes of the prompt you used and from where you downloaded the content. This will enable you to remove or alter content should you need to.
  4. Attribute properly (i.e., as it is not possible to attribute the sources accurately, at least attribute according to the style recommended by your discipline). The Library has a guide on AI-generated content and citation.
  5. Do not use GenAI content for decorative purposes (e.g., to make slides more aesthetically pleasing).
  6. Avoid using prompts that rely on a single source or a style that isn’t in the public domain (e.g., “in the style of Takashi Murakami”).
  7. Do not upload/input significant portions of work you do not own to AI services, unless you have permission to do so. For example:
    1. do not upload an image you don’t own to Midjourney’s image-based prompts service
    2. do not input the entire text of an article you don’t own to ChatGPT to ask for a summary
    3. do not input the entire text of your student’s assignment into an AI service to evaluate the quality of the content/whether it was written by an AI service13

GenAI services are rapidly changing as is the context (moral, ethical, and legal) surrounding their use. As more information becomes available about these services and/or as the legal status of them changes, this document will be updated.

1.Brown, Byl & Grossman. (2021). Are machine learning corpora “fair dealing” under Canadian law?
2. Baio, A. (2022). Exploring 12 million of the 2.3 billion images used to train stable diffusion’s image generator. 
3. Butterick, M. (2023). Stable Diffusion litigation. 
4. Cooper, K. (2021). OpenAI GPT-3: Everything you need to know. 
5. Boykis, V. (2023). Everything I understand about chatgpt. 
6. Gao, L. et al. (2020). The Pile: an 800GB Dataset of Diverse Text for Language Modeling. 
7. Schade, M. (2023). How ChatGPT and our language models are developed. 
8. U.S. Copyright Office. (2023). Copyright and Artificial Intelligence. 
9. In July 2021, ISED released a report “A consultation on a modern copyright framework for artificial intelligence and the internet of things” a signal that the government may be considering legislative change. 
10. Getty Images (US), Inc. v. Stability AI, Inc., 1:23-cv-00135, (D. Del.). 
11. DOE 1 v. GitHub, Inc., 4:22-cv-06823, (N.D. Cal.). 
12. Andersen v. Stability AI Ltd., 3:23-cv-00201, (N.D. Cal.). Back to note.
13. Turnitin’s GenAI detection tool has been enabled. More information about using this service is available on the Academic Integrity page about Turnitin - see "Artificial Intelligence Writing Detection".