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U.S. court ruled A.I.-generated art out of copyright protection


Digitally generated art is one of the widely discussed features of generative A.I. that was popularized last year. In a case over A.I. generative artwork’s copyright issues, a U.S. court ruled last Friday that it isn’t copyrightable.


The case is centered on computer scientist Stephen Thaler’s A.I. system, Creativity Machine, which he has been using to create generative artworks for more than a decade. In particular, Thaler created a series of images with Creativity Machine to simulate near-death experiences in 2012.


Hoping the copyright of one of the images titled A Recent Entrance to Paradise transferred to himself as he’s the owner of the system, he tried to register copyright in the U.S. Copyright Office in 2018.

Thaler’s request was denied twice in 2019 and 2020 before he brought this to court to sue the office, only to get rejected legally.


The court statement stated a few challenging questions to consider behind the refusal, including “how much human input is necessary to quality the user of an A.I. system as an “author” of a generated work”, “the scope of the protection obtained over the resultant image”, “how to assess the originality of A.I.-generated works where systems may have been trained on unknown pre-existing works”, and “how copyright might best be used to incentivize creative works involving A.I.”

Judge Beryl A. Howell ruled that A.I.-generated work cannot be copyrighted with the dominant reason being that the work lacks human authorship, because that is “a bedrock requirement of copyright.” Thaler admitted he “played no role in creating the work” in his application according to a Bloomberg report.


Although the generative A.I. artwork involved is ruled not copyrightable, this does not apply to all artworks created with “A.I. involvement.”


In a U.S. Copyright Office document published in the Federal Register in March, it embraced the copyrightability of artworks created with the assistance of A.I. as long as there is sufficient human authorship, meaning that the copyrightable artworks cannot be completely produced by technology.