Judge rules AI art not copyrightable.

Judge rules AI art not copyrightable.

The Copyright Battle Over AI-Generated Art: Computers Take Another Hit

There has been a heated debate in recent times about whether or not works created by generative artificial intelligence can be protected by copyright law. In this ongoing battle, some judges have argued that AI-generated art should not be copyrighted, while others have taken the opposite stance. However, in a recent ruling, the computers have taken another hit.

A federal judge, Beryl Howell, upheld a finding from the U.S. Copyright Office that states AI-created art is not eligible for copyright protection. This ruling came as a blow to Stephen Thaler, the CEO of Imagination Engines, a neural network firm that has been spearheading the movement to copyright AI works. Thaler argued that AI should be recognized as an author and that works solely generated by artificial intelligence should be protected by copyright law.

“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,” stated Howell, emphasizing that copyright law “protects only works of human creation.” This ruling highlights the principle that copyright law has traditionally been centered around human authorship and ingenuity, leaving AI-generated works outside its scope.

However, the situation remains complex. In March, the U.S. Copyright Office published guidance indicating its willingness to grant protection and ownership to AI-generated works on a case-by-case basis. The office stated that if a work is created entirely by AI, it is not copyrightable. Conversely, if a human utilizes AI as a support tool during the creative process, the resulting work could potentially be copyrightable.

Shira Perlmutter, the director of the Copyright Office, explained this nuanced approach, stating, “The Office will consider whether the AI contributions are the result of ‘mechanical reproduction’ or instead of an author’s ‘own original mental conception, to which [the author] gave visible form.’” This perspective aims to distinguish between works that are the product of purely mechanical reproduction by AI and those that involve human creativity aided by AI.

This ongoing copyright battle over AI-generated art has significant implications for artists, individuals working in the arts, and art enthusiasts. For example, the Writers and Actors Guilds (WAG/SAG-AFTRA) have been on strike for over 100 days, partially due to concerns that studios may employ generative AI to write scripts and act in films. This prospect raises fears of rendering certain jobs redundant and potentially leading to a decline in the quality of television and film.

As society becomes more reliant on artificial intelligence and the boundaries between human and machine creativity blur, it becomes crucial to establish clear guidelines regarding copyright and authorship. While AI currently holds tremendous potential in generating creative works, it is essential to navigate the legal landscape carefully and strike a balance that protects human ingenuity while fostering innovation in the digital age.

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