A federal judge rejected an attempt to copyright an artwork created by artificial intelligence in a decision last week that offered insight into the broader legal battle over authorship and intellectual property.
The case was unique because an inventor named Stephen Thaler listed his computer system as the creator of the artwork, arguing that a copyright should be issued and transferred to him as the machine’s owner. After the US Copyright Office repeatedly rejected his request, Thaler sued the agency’s director.
Judge Beryl A. of the US District Court for the District of Columbia. Howell, “Plaintiff cannot point to any case in which a court has recognized copyright in an inhumane work.” wrote in his decision Friday, adding that “as artists put AI in their toolbox, we’re moving toward new frontiers in copyright.”
Similar rules about “human authorship” are used to determine who owns monkey selfies In 2012, Thaler created the artwork in question by asking his generator to create an image — “A Recent Entrance to Heaven,” an alluring but pixelated scene of train tracks running through the countryside.
Thaler’s lawyer, Ryan Abbott, said he would appeal the ruling and characterized the legal debate as an important part of the public discourse surrounding the recent generative art boom.
“Do we want rules where you can own what comes out of artificial intelligence?” she said. “Or do we want rules that protect only very traditional, human artifacts?”
The Copyright Office said in a statement that it “believes the court reached the correct result.”
This year the agency Established an initiative to examine copyright laws and policy issues related to artificial intelligence. At about the same time, it Published guidelines for submission of creations That included AI-generated works, saying applicants must specify human authorship and explain which parts were produced by an algorithm.
The ruling against Thaler was “significant but not surprising,” said Megan Noah, an industry lawyer not connected to the case who said the decision was consistent with the office’s guidelines and previous court rulings. He added that this does not mean that “other works of art produced with the help of AI will not or cannot be registered.”
There is an onslaught of upcoming lawsuits challenging the validity of images and text generated by artificial intelligence In July, comedian Sarah Silverman joined a lawsuit accusing OpenAI and Meta of training their algorithms on her writing without permission. Other companies such as GitHub and Stability AI are facing lawsuits that accuse them Illegally scraping artists’ work for their AI products.
Jason M. Allen, the artist whose generative artwork sparked widespread discussion last year by winning the Colorado State Fair’s annual art competition, is pursuing her own lawsuit against the Copyright Office.
His request for copyright as the sole author of images produced by a generative algorithm was rejected by the agency, and he is awaiting a decision on a second appeal. Allen said he was prepared for a court battle, explaining that artists want to control their work regardless of the tools used to create it.
“You can’t separate the tool from the user,” he said. “By separating the tool from the user, you’re dismissing the person who created it.”