A US federal judge has ruled that human beings are an “essential part of a valid copyright claim”.
The ruling was the result of a lawsuit brought forth by Stephen Thaler, who was looking to copyright ‘A Recent Entrance to Paradise’, an image he created using an artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm he built and named the Creativity Machine.
Thaler had tried multiple times to copyright the image “as a work-for-hire to the owner of the Creativity Machine,” listing the author as the creator of the work and Thaler as the artwork’s owner.
However, his request was rejected by the US Copyright Office on the grounds that “the nexus between the human mind and creative expression” is a crucial element of protection.
Now a judge has upheld the decision, as first reported by The Hollywood Reporter.
In her decision, Judge Howell wrote that copyright has never been granted to work that was “absent [of] any guiding human hand,” adding that “human authorship is a bedrock requirement of copyright”, even as it is channelled through “new tools or into new media”.
“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,” Howell wrote.
The Copyright Office said in a statement it “believes the court reached the correct result”, while Thaler’s attorney, Ryan Abbott, said that he and his client strongly disagree with the decision and will appeal.
The rise of generative AI tools has led to concerns regarding the authorship of works of art. There has been an increasing number of lawsuits aiming to protect creatives from having their works fed into AI tools for training. This is the case of the lawsuit brought forth by Sarah Silverman and two other authors against OpenAI and Meta earlier this year.
Programmer and lawyer Matthew Butterick has also accused Microsoft, GitHub and OpenAI of data scraping amounting to software piracy.
“In the absence of any human involvement in the creation of the work, the clear and straightforward answer is the one given by the Register: no,” Howell wrote.
In March, the US Copyright Office affirmed that most works generated by AI aren’t copyrightable but clarified that AI-assisted materials qualify for protection in certain instances in which a human “selected or arranged” the contents of the work in a “sufficiently creative way that the resulting work constitutes an original work of authorship”.
Thaler has also applied for patents for his artworks in other countries including the UK, South Africa, Australia and Saudi Arabia, with limited success.