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AI-Generated Art is Non-Copyrightable, Says Federal Judge

Artificial intelligence art generator, conceptual illustration. Neurone, or nerve cell, painting a picture. Photo courtesy of Getty Images

The U.S. Copyright Office ruled that AI-generated art is non-copyrightable. According to Intellectual Property Law, copyrights can only be given to manmade works.

AI-generated art
Digital illustration of data encryption and artificial intelligence conceptual backgrounds. Photo courtesy of Getty Images

The U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell upheld the ruling that copyright laws cannot protect AI-generated art. She cited the U.S. Supreme Court decision from April 24, wherein they declined Stephen Thaler’s request for patents for the inventions of his artificial intelligence system called Device for the Autonomous Bootstrapping of Unified Sentience (DABUS). This system generates art without human input. Instead, the output is based on an algorithm. Howell believes copyright laws do not cover art from new technology without human involvement. “Human authorship is a bedrock requirement,” she says.

Stephen Thaler has tried to get copyright protection on AI-generated works since 2018. Unfortunately for him, the U.S. Copyright Office has been declining his applications ever since. He wanted to credit his neural network, The Creativity Machine, for the Recent Entrance to Paradise art piece. The machine’s autonomy became a double-edged sword; it is an extraordinary feat in tech, but copyright laws cannot protect its output.

AI-Generated Art vs Camera Photos

AI-generated art
Artificial intelligence art generator, conceptual illustration. Neurone, or nerve cell, painting a picture. Photo courtesy of Getty Images

So why can we get copyrights for photos from cameras but not art from AI? After all, both tools generate something with just one click. For the U.S. Copyright Office, the critical difference between using a camera and current AI tools is that there is human engagement in taking pictures. We envision what we want our images to look like before taking them. This is why images can be copyrighted.

The ruling is relevant to the recent writers’ strikes in light of studios considering AI to make their scripts for movies and television. With the rapid development of AI tools, creatives are pushing for legislation to protect themselves from exploitation. Basically, they do not consent to AI using their works as data points for machines and deep learning.

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