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AI-generated art cannot be copyrighted, rules a US Federal Judge

Landmark Ruling: AI-Generated Art Denied Copyright


In a groundbreaking legal decision, a federal judge in the United States has ruled that art generated by artificial intelligence (AI) cannot be copyrighted.


This verdict has significant implications for the relationship between AI creativity and intellectual property.


Stephen Thaler’s AI-generated artwork cannot be copyrighted. Steven Thaler and/or Creativity Machine
Stephen Thaler’s AI-generated artwork cannot be copyrighted. Steven Thaler and/or Creativity Machine

Judge's Verdict


US District Judge Beryl Howell upheld a prior ruling from the US Patent and Trademark Office, emphasizing that copyright law has never extended to "protect works generated by new forms of technology operating absent any guiding human hand."


This verdict follows the notion that AI-generated creations lack the guiding influence of a human creator.


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The Case: AI as a Creator


The case in question was initiated by plaintiff Stephen Thaler, who sought to establish his AI system as the creator of a particular artwork. Thaler's intention was to secure copyright for this AI-generated piece, designating himself as the owner. However, multiple attempts to register the image under a "work-for-hire" arrangement were repeatedly denied.


Human Authorship as a Requirement


Judge Howell's ruling reaffirmed that "human authorship is a bedrock requirement of copyright." This principle maintains that copyright protection is inherently tied to human creativity and the manifestation of ideas through human agency.


The Ongoing Battle and Future Challenges


Despite this setback, Stephen Thaler intends to appeal the case, indicating that the legal battle over AI-generated art is far from over.


In April of this year, the US Supreme Court declined to hear Thaler's challenge against the US Patent and Trademark Office's refusal to grant patents for AI-generated work. This ruling serves as another pivotal moment in the evolving landscape of AI and intellectual property rights.


AI and the Future of Copyright


Judge Howell's decision acknowledges that we are entering uncharted territory regarding copyright and AI.


As AI becomes a prominent tool for artistic creation, it raises complex questions about the level of human involvement required for copyright protection. Notably, AI models often undergo training using existing works, blurring the lines between human and machine creativity.


The Road Ahead


While the legal landscape surrounding AI and copyright remains uncertain, these cases are stacking up, signaling the need for ongoing examination of intellectual property rights in the age of AI.


As artists increasingly utilize AI as a creative tool, the boundaries of copyright law will be continuously tested, reshaping the future of creativity and ownership.


Nobody really knows how things will shake out around US copyright law and artificial intelligence, but the court cases have been piling up. Sarah Silverman and two other authors filed suit against OpenAI and Meta earlier this year over their models’ data scraping practices, for instance, while another lawsuit by programmer and lawyer Matthew Butterick alleges that data scraping by Microsoft, GitHub, and OpenAI amounted to software piracy.

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