AI-generated art can’t be copyrighted, according to a new ruling by a federal judge, and the consequences may be broad.
The ruling is the result of a lawsuit brought several months ago against the U.S. Copyright Office by one Stephen Thaler. His aim is to list his own AI system as the sole creator, and copyright holder, of an artwork called “A Recent Entrance to Paradise. Thaler has filed several lawsuits asserting that an AI should be able to hold copyright, including listing the same AI machine as an inventor in a patent applcation. The Copyright Office rejected him in all cases.
In Friday’s ruling, US District Judge Beryl Howell upheld the Copyright Office’s decision, saying that humans are an “essential part” and “a bedrock requirement” of copyright.
“Plaintiff can point to no case in which a court has recognized copyright in a work originating with a non-human,” Howell added.
She cited precedent in a prior case concerning a selfie taken by a monkey, where it was ruled that non-humans don’t have any legal authority for copyright claims. Like that case, her ruling included that a human could not copyright works made by non-humans, either.
It’s that part that may have broad consequences, if this ruling stands as precedent. A key issue in the current entertainment-industry strikes is how AI-generated content will affect the future of film, whether it’s writing movies or digitally cloning actors. This ruling may dramatically chill Hollywood’s ambitions to use AI, if anything they make with it is devoid of legal protection.
Howell acknowledged that potential repercussion, saying that future cases will be more complex and “will prompt challenging questions regarding how much human input is necessary to qualify the user of an AI system as an ‘author’ of a generated work.”