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  • Mal McCallion

AI Artistry Hits Legal Wall: No Humans, No Rights

Updated: Dec 11, 2023

US judge rules AI-generated artwork can't be copyrighted, sparking debate on creativity and authorship in the era of artificial intelligence.

In a landmark decision that could send ripples through the creative industries, a US judge has ruled that artwork created entirely by artificial intelligence (AI) can't be copyrighted.

This ruling, delivered by US District Judge Beryl Howell, comes as a blow to AI enthusiasts and could potentially reshape the landscape of film, television, and other artistic disciplines.

The case was brought to court by Dr. Stephen Thaler, an AI enthusiast, who objected to the US Copyright Office's decision that an AI-generated image, "A Recent Entrance To Paradise", couldn't have a machine listed as its creator. Consequently, Thaler couldn't claim copyright under "work for hire" protections as the client commissioning the piece.

The Copyright Office has previously stated that works where a human has "selected or arranged" the art in a "sufficiently creative way" could qualify for copyright. However, it remains unclear whether generating a text prompt for an AI to create an image meets this "selection or arrangement" criterion.

Judge Howell's decision dives into the philosophical depths of creativity and authorship, stating that "Human authorship is a bedrock requirement" for copyright. She emphasised that "Human involvement in, and ultimate creative control over, the work at issue was key to the conclusion that the new type of work fell within the bounds of copyright."

This ruling arrives amidst a growing debate on the use of AI in the arts, a contentious issue in the current WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes in Hollywood. As AI techniques become increasingly prevalent, the question of authorship becomes more pressing and financially uncertain.

This case reinforces the belief that copyright cannot exist without human creative output and intent, a principle that may shape the future of AI in the arts.

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