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  • Writer's pictureSarah Brightmann

US Federal Judge Rules AI-Generated Art Ineligible for Copyright Protection

In a recent development, United States District Court Judge Beryl A. Howell ruled that AI-generated artwork cannot be eligible for copyright protection. The ruling came about during a lawsuit against the US Copyright Office, which had denied copyright to Stephen Thaler for an AI-generated image produced using his Creativity Machine algorithm.

Thaler had attempted multiple times to secure copyright for the image by categorizing it as a "work-for-hire" under the ownership of the Creativity Machine. This approach would have designated Thaler as the artwork's owner while identifying the AI as the creator. However, his efforts were repeatedly rejected.

In response to the Copyright Office's final denial last year, Thaler filed a lawsuit against the Office, arguing that its decision was "arbitrary, capricious... and not in accordance with the law." Nonetheless, Judge Howell disagreed with this perspective. In her ruling, she emphasized that copyright protection has never been extended to works that lack a "guiding human hand." She further noted that "human authorship is a bedrock requirement of copyright." The judge cited previous cases, including one involving a monkey's selfie, to support her stance.

However, Judge Howell acknowledged that the realm of copyright is evolving due to the integration of AI technology. She mentioned that artists are now using AI as a tool to create new works, leading to complex questions about the level of human input necessary for copyright protection. The judge recognized that AI models often draw from existing works during their training processes, adding to the intricacies of this issue.

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