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AI-generated Art cannot be copyrighted


All images created with Dreamstudio by Stability.ai


On January 26, 2023, United States District Court Judge Beryl A. Howell ruled that visual art created by a computer system without human assistance could not be copyrighted. The ruling upheld a previous decision by the U.S. Copyright Office, which has consistently held that works created by machines are not eligible for copyright protection.


The case involved an artist named Stephen Thaler, who had created an AI program called "Creativity Machine" that could generate images. Thaler had applied for a copyright registration for one of the images created by the program, but the Copyright Office denied his request. Thaler then sued the Copyright Office, arguing that the agency's decision was unconstitutional.


In her ruling, Judge Howell agreed with the Copyright Office that AI-generated works are not eligible for copyright protection. She wrote that the Copyright Act requires that a work be "original" in order to be copyrighted, and that "originality" means that the work must be "the product of an author's own intellectual creation." Judge Howell found that the images created by Thaler's program were not the product of his own intellectual creation, but rather were the product of the program's algorithm.


Judge Howell's ruling is a significant setback for the development of AI-generated art. It means that artists who use AI tools to create their work will not be able to protect their creations from copyright infringement. However, the ruling is not necessarily the final word on the issue. Thaler has said that he plans to appeal the decision to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. It is also possible that Congress could eventually pass legislation that would specifically grant copyright protection to AI-generated works.


The copyright status of AI-generated art is a complex and evolving issue. The ruling by Judge Howell is just one step in a long process of determining how the law will apply to this new form of creativity.

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