Go on, make all the generative AI artworks you want, but it will not be protected under copyright law. A federal court ruled on August 18 that AI-generated artwork cannot be copyrighted on the grounds that copyright law only extends to human beings, per The Hollywood Reporter. The case made its way to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia after the U.S. Copyright Office twice refused a copyright to plaintiff Stephan Thaler for an image generated by the Creativity Machine algorithm, a program he created. Judge Beryl A. Howell sided with the office’s decision, saying “defendants are correct that human authorship is an essential part of a valid copyright claim. When Thaler requested reconsideration of his application, he argued 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,’” according to the memo reviewed by Vulture.
Howell disagreed with the plaintiff’s reasoning, noting that “copyright is designed to adapt with the times,” but must contain human creativity, which is the essential condition “at the core copyrightability, even as that human creativity is channeled through new tools or into new media.” Howell states that AI does not meet these requirements. “Copyright has never stretched so far, however, as to protect works generated by new forms of technology operating absent any guiding human hand,” she concludes.
The ruling comes during mass upheavals in creative industries that arose, in part, due to the threat of AI-generated works challenging artists’ livelihoods. An Atlantic report, published on August 19, revealed that roughly 190,000 bodies of work, including 170,000 books, were used in the Books3 dataset to train AI models without permission. Last month, writers Sarah Silverman, Richard Kadrey, and Christopher Golden filed a lawsuit in California alleging that Meta violated copyright laws and used their works to train AI-tool LLaMA. And, this summer, Hollywood has been on strike fighting against AI incursion in their work, among other issues. Other entities, like the Grammys, have sided with the federal courts on this one: “Only human” musicians are eligible. AI will just have to find another way to world domination.