On the 18th of August 2023, Federal Judge Beryl Howell of the US District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that artificial intelligence-generated artworks cannot be subject to copyright. This subject has already been discussed by The US Copyright Office.
Stephen Thaler’s computer algorithm created “A Recent Entrance to Paradise”
Stephen Thaler is a computer scientist. In 2012, he created “The Creativity Machine”, a software that he developed using DABUS (Device for the Autonomous Bootstrapping of Unified Sentience), an artificial intelligence system that he developed and that created the image subject of the copyright request to the USCO. This image is titled “A Recent Entrance to Paradise”.
Thaler requested the USCO to register a copyright for this image for the author identified as The Creativity Machine, USCO denied the request in August 2019 and again in 2020 and 2022. Thaler noted that “AI should be “acknowledge[d]… as an author where it otherwise meets authorship criteria, with any copyright ownership vesting in the AI’s owner.”
Thaler also tried to request patents for his DABUS products in many countries like the United Kingdom, South Africa, Australia and Saudi Arabia but with no success.
The judge’s position validates the position of the US Copyright Office (USCO)
Today, the US Copyright Office doesn’t accept registering a copyright for the images created or generated by Artificial Intelligence applications or sites. It is also the case of Stephen Thaler’s application for a copyright “because the work lacked human authorship”. Thaler decided to challenge the USCO’s decision in the US District Court for the District of Columbia.
Judge Howell noted that “The Copyright Office denied the application on the basis that the work lack[ed] the human authorship necessary to support a copyright claim, noting that copyright law only extends to works created by human beings.”
Federal Judge Howel denied all the arguments of Thaler and closed the case. Ryan Abbott, Stephen Thaler’s lawyer, has said that he will appeal this ruling.
An important issue evolving: AI-Images and copyright
The position taken by the Federal judge is an important evolution of the copyright case laws, especially with the rapid evolution of AI technology.
The question of registering the copyright of AI-generated artworks as classic art is a big debate that continues to evolve, especially with the fast evolution of AI technology in many fields, including generating images.