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US Federal Judge Rules AI Work Can’t Be Copyrighted

US Federal Judge Rules AI Work Can’t Be Copyrighted

Ivana Shteriova
AI-generated work without human involvement is not subject to copyright laws, a federal judge from the District of Columbia ruled on August 18. Judge Beryl A. Howell’s decision states that the US Copyright Office was correct in denying copyright protections to 100% AI-generated work.

The Friday ruling took place as a result of computer scientist Stephen Thaler asking for copyright protection for an AI-generated piece titled “A Recent Entrance to Paradise.” He created the visual artwork using his own computer system called Creativity Machine.

Thaler attempted to transfer the copyright from the AI system to himself, which the US Copyright Office denied.

In his request to acquire the copyright for the piece, Thaler stated the piece was “autonomously” generated by his Creativity Machine AI tool. After the Office denied his request, Thaler sued the Office for not acting in accordance with the law. The judge, on the other hand, agreed with the US Copyright Office, stating human authorship is “a bedrock requirement” to copyright a piece.

As AI-generated work is on the rise, Thaler’s case attracted national attention. The judge described the issue of copyrighting AI work as a subject that lacks clarity. One of the critical unresolved issues Howell highlighted is the amount of human input needed in order to copyright a piece.

James Grimmelmann, professor of digital and information law at Cornell Law School, told Politico the judge’s decision “changes absolutely nothing because the status quo has been that AI-generated works aren’t copyrightable.” He further discussed that because Thaler went for the “broader idea that AI could be an author,” he set himself up for rejection by the US Copyright Office. The Office “believes the court reached the correct result.”

This isn’t Thaler’s first attempt to challenge intellectual property rules in favor of AI-generated work. Previously he sought to obtain patents for work generated with this AI system “DABUS” in 18 jurisdictions worldwide.

Freelance platform Fiverr’s CEO, Micha Kaufman, expressed his support for the decision made by the DC District Court Judge. “We support this ruling. This is what we’ve been saying all along,” Kaufman said in the official press release. “We at Fiverr know that while AI can be a powerful tool in the creative process, it’s the human element that imbues work with originality.”

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