A United States District Court Judge has determined that AI-generated artworks cannot have copyright protection. The ruling came as a response to a lawsuit brought before the court by Stephen Thaler against the US Copyright Office.
Thaler sought copyright for an AI-generated image produced using his Creativity Machine algorithm. The decision made by Judge Beryl A. Howell raises important questions about the intersection of technology and artistic authorship.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Thaler had pursued copyright claims for the AI-generated image because it was a “work-for-hire” for the owner of the Creativity Machine. He aimed to be credited as the image’s creator while retaining ownership. However, his attempts were consistently denied by the Copyright Office.
Judge Howell’s ruling underscored the essential role of human involvement in creative endeavours, asserting that copyright protection has historically been granted to works that possess an inherent “guiding human hand,” adding that “human authorship is a bedrock requirement of copyright.”
Howell highlighted that the absence of direct human authorship disqualifies AI-generated art from copyright protection, stating precedents such as the famous case involving a monkey’s “selfie.”
While acknowledging the emergence of novel challenges at the intersection of AI and copyright, Judge Howell remarked on the evolving landscape of artistic creation. As AI tools are increasingly integrated into the creative process, she noted that determining the necessary extent of human input for copyright protection will be looked at further. Notably, AI models frequently draw inspiration from pre-existing works during their training.
Stephen Thaler expressed his intention to appeal the ruling. His legal representative, Ryan Abbot from Brown Neri Smith & Khan LLP, stated, “We respectfully disagree with the court’s interpretation of the Copyright Act.” Bloomberg Law reported the US Copyright Office’s alignment with the court’s decision.
The crossroads of US copyright law and artificial intelligence remain uncertain, with various legal battles underway. Just this year, Getty issued a lawsuit against Stable Diffusion, and several independent artists are suing AI platforms for copyright infringement.
[Via The Verge]