AI-generated artwork denied copyright protection


A significant legal precedent has been set in the realm of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a US federal court ruled that artwork created by generative AI platforms cannot be eligible for copyright protection due to the absence of “human authorship.” This ruling, delivered in the US Federal Court of the District of Columbia, emerged from an appeal filed by Dr. Stephen Thaler, president and CEO of Imagination Engines Incorporate (IEI), who had designed an AI algorithm named the Creativity Machine.

Dr. Thaler sought to register an AI-generated image called “A Recent Entrance to Paradise” for copyright protection in 2012. Despite a lengthy legal battle, including arguments that the requirement of human authorship for copyright is unconstitutional, the Copyright Office’s Review Board denied his claim last year. The recent court decision sided with this denial, emphasizing that human creativity is an essential foundation of copyright protection.

Judge Beryl Howell, who penned the court’s decision, explained that while copyright adapts to technological changes, the core principle of human creativity as a prerequisite for copyright remains unchanged. The ruling indicated that copyright has never been extended to safeguard works produced by technology in the absence of human input, emphasizing that “human authorship is a bedrock requirement of copyright”.

The implications of this ruling have sparked discussions among legal and AI experts about the potential impact on the use of generative AI technology, including its applications in writing and creating Hollywood movies.

Additionally, it could impact the ownership of AI-generated artworks, a subject that has raised concerns in the art world as AI-created images have garnered recognition and even won competitions.

The ruling’s ramifications also extend to AI-related copyright discussions in other jurisdictions. In Australia, the legal landscape surrounding AI-generated works is still evolving, with law firm King and Wood Mallesons (KWM) examining issues of ownership. While this US ruling specifically addressed the lack of human authorship, questions remain about AI tools’ outcomes when influenced by human direction.

The evolving AI legal landscape involves more than copyright considerations. OpenAI, the developer of ChatGPT, has been embroiled in lawsuits alleging copyright infringement due to training AI models with copyrighted materials. The outcome of such cases may hinge on economic implications and fair dealing provisions, particularly concerning potential economic losses. The legal complexities of AI continue to unfold as the technology’s far-reaching implications become clearer.


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