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Judge Rules Wholly AI-Created Art Can't Get Copyright Protections

Authorship is a big sticking point when it comes to AI, and the involvement of real humans is keeping AI-made creations from being granted copyright protection.

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For those in the entertainment industry (and creative fields more generally), AI has been an extremely divisive topic. As various websites like ArtStation have decided to basically let art created by the controversial technology persist on their platforms—either freely or with specific guidelines—Hollywood writers and actors are striking in part because they fear how studios could easily use the technology as a way to avoid paying them. Fortunately, intellectual property law is here to say that copyrights will continue to only apply to human-made works.

On Friday, US District Judge Beryl Howell reaffirmed that sentiment with her ruling, stating “human authorship is a bedrock requirement” for anything seeking a copyright. The declaration was made in regards to Stephen Thaler’s bid to have the government begin allowing copyright protections for AI-made works. Thaler, who serves as chief engineer of the neural network firm Imagination Engines, has been trying to push for protecting AI creations since 2018. At the time of his original application, the Copyright Office turned it down, saying the nexus between the human mind and creative expression” was a key factor in a work being protected.


Howell, in this most recent ruling, reaffirmed that US copyright law “protects only works of human creation.” Further, she stated that creations made by “non-human actors” such as AI “need no incentivization with the promise of exclusive rights under United States law, and copyright was therefore not designed to reach them.” While she acknowledged that the copyright is meant to “adapt with the times,” she argued that anything seeking protection is required to have “an originator with the capacity for intellectual, creative, or artistic labor. Must that originator be a human being to claim copyright protection? The answer is yes.”

Hollywood studios have been gradually making steps towards bringing AI into their productions, and it’s likely they’ll continue to do so by having enough humans involved so the work technically qualifies as being authored by real people. The larger issue of AI’s use in creative fields hasn’t been resolved here—and given that artists are currently pursuing legal action about having their art being used to train AI, it’ll be awhile before there’s any kind of resolution in sight.


Howell’s full ruling can be read here.

[via The Hollywood Reporter]

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