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Judge rules that AI-generated art can't be copyrighted

U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell ruled that "human authorship is a bedrock requirement of copyright."
Judge rules that AI-generated art can't be copyrighted
Posted at 12:46 PM, Aug 21, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-23 20:21:02-04

A U.S. District Court judge has ruled that art created by artificial intelligence cannot be copyrighted, in a decision that could impact the Hollywood strikes, in which AI is a key issue.

A lawsuit, first reported by The Hollywood Reporter, was filed against the U.S. Copyright Office after Stephen Thaler attempted to list his AI system as the "creator" of a piece of artwork titled "A Recent Entrance to Paradise." Thaler's application was ultimately rejected, prompting the lawsuit.

U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell ruled against Thaler Friday, saying the artwork could not be copyrighted because "human authorship is a bedrock requirement of copyright."

"Accordingly, courts have uniformly declined to recognize copyright in works created absent any human involvement, even when, for example, the claimed author was divine," Howell wrote.

She also pointed to a related case in which a woman argued her book "claimed to embody the words of celestial beings rather than human beings," and could therefore be copyrighted. The courts concluded in that case "some element of human creativity must have occurred in order for the Book to be copyrightable."

Howell did, however,  acknowledge that "we are approaching new frontiers in copyright as artists put AI in their toolbox" as a way to create new and unique forms of work. She noted that these changes will prompt "challenging questions" regarding how much human input is required to qualify the AI user as an "author" of the generated work.

Thaler is expected to appeal the ruling.  

"We respectfully disagree with the court's interpretation of the Copyright Act," his attorney said in a statement shared with Bloomberg Law.

The latest ruling may also signal an alarm among Hollywood studios considering their ongoing contract dispute with striking writers and actors. The future of AI in the industry has been a key issue in the strikes, amid concerns that studios will use the technology to undermine creative jobs and cut down on costs.


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