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U.S. Court Rules AI-Generated Art Unfit for Copyright Protection, Setting Precedent

In a significant legal precedent, a U.S. court rules that artworks solely crafted by artificial intelligence lack eligibility for copyright protection, reinforcing the Copyright Office's stance on human authorship as an essential criterion.

US court says AI-generated art is not protected by copyright law.
Image by AlanFrijns. Copyright: AlanFrijns

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a landmark ruling with far-reaching implications, a U.S. court declared that artworks crafted solely by artificial intelligence (AI) without human involvement are not eligible for copyright protection under U.S. law. The decision, handed down by U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell, underscores the Copyright Office's previous stance on the matter, ultimately affirming that only creations attributed to human authors can secure copyright status.

AI-Generated Art

The ruling stems from an application filed by computer scientist Stephen Thaler on behalf of his DABUS system – an AI technology abbreviated for "Device for the Autonomous Bootstrapping of Unified Sentience."

Thaler sought copyright protection for a piece of art titled "A Recent Entrance to Paradise," which was entirely conceived by DABUS. The U.S. Copyright Office, however, rejected the application in the past year, maintaining that human authorship remains an indispensable prerequisite for copyright eligibility.

A Series of Setbacks

Thaler's legal battle extends beyond copyright disputes. The computer scientist faced setbacks in his pursuit of U.S. patents for inventions attributed to DABUS, a trend that carried over to his patent applications in countries such as the United Kingdom, South Africa, Australia, and Saudi Arabia. Despite these challenges, Thaler remains determined to establish legal precedents that recognize AI-generated creations.

Legal Discord and Perspectives

Thaler's attorney, Ryan Abbott, voiced strong disagreement with the court's decision, expressing the intention to appeal. Conversely, the U.S. Copyright Office issued a statement asserting that the court's ruling aligned with their position.

The verdict comes at a time when the field of generative AI is growing at an unprecedented rate, posing unique intellectual property challenges. The Copyright Office's rejection of an artist's bid for copyrights on AI-generated images, as well as ongoing lawsuits related to the unauthorized use of copyrighted material in training AI, underscore the complexities arising from this emerging landscape.

Future Implications

The court's decision, authored by Judge Howell, addresses the evolving landscape of AI and its intersection with copyright law. While acknowledging the emerging role of AI in artistic endeavors, Howell emphasized that this case, though pivotal, remains relatively straightforward. As AI increasingly becomes a creative tool for artists, it is likely to provoke "challenging questions" for copyright law in the future.

The U.S. court's ruling has definitively established that AI-generated art without human contribution does not qualify for copyright protection in the United States. While the decision sets a precedent for AI's role in the creative process, it is expected to stimulate further debates about the boundaries of copyright law in the digital age.


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