In a recent court decision, United States District Judge Beryl Howell upheld the stance of the U.S. Copyright Office that artworks created solely by artificial intelligence (AI) are not eligible for copyright protection.

This verdict came amid growing worries about the possibility of generative AI taking the place of human artists and writers.

With over 100 days passed since the commencement of the Hollywood writer’s strike, concerns have escalated regarding the potential takeover of scriptwriting by AI. Nonetheless, intellectual property regulations have consistently upheld that copyrights are exclusively bestowed upon creations originating from humans.

Screenshot of Howell’s ruling. Source: CourtListener

Howell’s ruling was a response to Stephen Thaler’s legal dispute against the government’s denial of registration for AI-produced creations. Thaler, the CEO of Imagination Engines — a neural network company — contended that AI meeting authorship criteria should be recognized as an author. As a result, the ownership of the work should belong to the owner of the AI system.

Howell disagreed, stressing the importance of humans as authors under copyright law. She pointed to previous cases like Burrow-Giles Lithographic Company v. Sarony, which supported protection for ideas made by humans. Another case showed that even a photo taken by an animal couldn’t be copyrighted.

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Howell discussed copyright motivating humans in creative endeavors. She noted that copyrights and patents were designed as safeguarded property, fostering science and arts by encouraging creation and innovation.

This verdict arrives amid ongoing legal discussions about AI firms using copyrighted content for training. Multiple lawsuits in California have been filed by artists claiming copyright violations, which might lead to AI companies needing to disassemble their language models.

This ruling shifts the conversation on AI and copyright. While AI-made art might not qualify for copyright, it underscores the significance of human creativity in intellectual property.

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