With the popular press and the blogosphere abuzz over the recent TV game show triumph of Watson, IBM’s “Jeopardy”-playing supercomputer, there’s an intriuging hint that the whimsical cyber trivia wizard might have his own darker Hal-esque side: Is the device named after company founder Thomas J. Watson possibly an infringer on others’ copyrights?
Watson’s “genius,” of course, is rooted in extraordinarily sophisticated computing, systems programmed by 25 IBM scientists over the last four years, according to wired.com.
An anonymous tipster points us, though, to the interesting comments by a writer long unhappy over cyber whizzes and how they “index” published books. Peter Hirtle , on a Laboratorium.net post discussing Watson (go the end of the long comment thread, please), muses about the 200 million pages of content that was scanned into that super brain and wonders if any of it infringes author copyrights, noting “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)?”
IBM asserts it got licenses for everything fed into Watson and says it obeyed copyright rules, Info World Tech Watch reports.
As the carping rises including here and here about the win and Watson — who is getting about as popular as the homicidal space ship-controlling computer, HAL 9000, in Arthur Clarke’s “2001” — well, just for the brain tease, how about wondering on an abstract copyright query: Does human photographic memory constitute a kind of infringement?