Judge rules AI-created art is not copyrightable, may concern studios

A federal judge has ruled that artwork created by artificial intelligence (AI) is not eligible for copyright protection. The ruling came in response to a lawsuit brought by Stephen Thaler, the CEO of neural network firm Imagination Engines, who argued that AI should be recognized as an author and that copyright ownership should vest in the machine's owner. The judge upheld the U.S. Copyright Office's position that copyrights are only granted to works created by humans. The ruling emphasized that human authorship is a fundamental requirement for copyright protection and that copyright law is designed to adapt with the times.

The judge cited previous cases that established the requirement for human involvement and creative control in copyrightable works. In Burrow-Giles Lithographic Company v. Sarony, the Supreme Court held that photographs can be protected as long as they represent the original intellectual conceptions of a human author. Additionally, the judge referenced a case where a federal appeals court denied copyright protection to a photo taken by a monkey, stating that non-human actors cannot be recognized as copyright holders.

The ruling also explored the purpose of copyright law, which is to encourage human individuals to engage in creation. Copyrights and patents were conceived as forms of property that the government protects to incentivize individuals to create and invent. The judge concluded that copyright law was not designed to extend to non-human actors.

The ruling comes at a time when AI companies are facing legal challenges regarding the training of their systems on copyrighted works. Artists and authors have filed lawsuits alleging copyright infringement, potentially leading to the destruction of large language models developed by AI companies.

While the ruling maintains the current understanding that copyrights are granted to human authors, the Copyright Office has clarified that AI-assisted materials can qualify for protection in certain instances. If a human creatively selects or arranges AI-generated content in a way that constitutes an original work of authorship, it may be eligible for copyright protection.


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