A recent ruling by a U.S. court has stirred the waters of the art world and raised questions regarding the intersection of artificial intelligence (AI) and copyright law.

On August 18, 2023, a federal judge in Washington D.C. ruled that artwork generated by artificial intelligence cannot be copyrighted under U.S. law  Thaler V. Perlmutter, 1:22-cv-01564, (D.D.C.).

The landmark decision upholds the finding of the Register of Copyright that no valid copyright …[will exist] in a work generated absent human involvement….”

The ruling is a significant step towards defining the legal parameters surrounding the burgeoning field of AI-generated art.

AI-generated art, a product of complex algorithms and machine learning, has been gaining traction in recent years.

From AI recreations of historical masterpieces to generating novel, original artwork, these creations have sparked heated debates about the nature of creativity, authorship, and the role of AI in the art world.

With this new ruling, the court has essentially stated that AI, despite its advanced capabilities, cannot be considered an author.

This decision pivots on the interpretation of the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, which specifies that copyright protection is available to“original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression,,,” 17 U.S.C. §102(a).

“The fixing of the work in the tangible medium must be done ‘by or under the authority of the author.’ §101.  In order to be eligible for copyright, then, a work must have an “author.””Thaler v. Perlmutter.

The court’s interpretation implies that authorship necessitates a human creator, thereby excluding AI from the purview of copyright law.

This means that AI-generated art, while it may be original and fixed in a tangible medium, lacks the human authorship required for copyright protection.

The purpose of the Copyright Act was to protect human creativity and encourage advancements in science and useful arts by protecting the discoveries and works of the author.

[H]ow to best encourage human individuals to engage in that creation, and thereby promote science and useful arts – was thus central to American copyright from its inception.  Non-human actors need no incentivization with the promise of exclusive rights under United States law, and copyright was therefore not designed to reach them.” Thaler v. Perlmutter  

This ruling has profound implications for artists, creators, and tech companies alike. For artists using AI as a tool in their creative processes, the question of copyright protection becomes much more complex. For tech companies developing AI capable of creating art, this could potentially limit commercial exploitation of AI-generated works.

While the decision is pivotal, it is not necessarily final. As AI continues to evolve and become more integrated into our society, so too will our laws need to adapt.

The Copyright Act was designed for continued advances in stating original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium for expression, now known or later developed…” 17 U.S.C. §102(a). 

Underlying that adaptability, however, has been a consistent understanding that human creativity is the sine qua non at the core of copyrightability, even as that human creativity is channeled through new tools and into new media” Thaler v. Perlmutter.

This ruling is just the beginning of what is sure to be an ongoing conversation about the relationship between AI, art, and copyright law.

This week, on August 30, 2023, the US Copyright Office issued a notice of inquiry in the Federal Register on copyright and artificial intelligence. 

The purpose of this notice is to seek factual information and public input on the advances of generative AI.  This notice is part of the Offices AI initiative, which was launched earlier this year. 

The Office is undertaking a study of the copyright law and policy issues raised by generative AI and is assessing whether legislative or regulatory steps are warranted. The Office will use the record it assembles to advise Congress; inform its regulatory work; and offer information and resources to the public, courts, and other government entities considering these issues.” (Source: NewsNet 1017)

As we navigate this new landscape, one thing remains clear: AI is reshaping the art world and, with it, our understanding of creativity and authorship.

While an AI might not be able to claim copyright for its creations, its impact on the world of art is undeniable and here to stay.

It is an exciting time to witness the evolution of art through the lens of technology.

While we may not be ready to call AI an artist, its role in pushing the boundaries of what we consider art is unquestionable.

Schedule your consultation with SecureMark Legal to discuss securing your IP rights and protecting your hard work.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *