A federal judge ruled Friday that art produced by artificial intelligence without human involvement cannot be copyrighted.
District Court Judge for the District Of Columbia Beryl A. Howell agreed with the United States Copyright Office’s decision not to grant copyright protection to the owner of a computer system for art generated by the system. Stephen Thaler, who owns a program called the “Creativity Machine,” was denied a copyright by the office for a piece of visual art his system created because it “lacked human authorship,” which Howell notes is “a bedrock requirement of copyright.”
“[T]his case presents only the question of whether a work generated autonomously by a computer system is eligible for copyright,” Howell wrote. “In the absence of any human involvement in the creation of the work, the clear and straightforward answer is the one given by the Register: No.”
While more complex questions did not arise in this case, Howell noted that we are “approaching new frontiers in copyright as artists put AI in their toolbox to be used in the generation of new visual and other artistic works.”
“The increased attenuation of human creativity from the actual generation of the final work 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, the scope of the protection obtained over the resultant image, how to assess the originality of AI-generated works where the systems may have been trained on unknown pre-existing works, how copyright might best be used to incentivize creative works involving AI, and more.”
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