More than 100 days after the writers’ strike, fears have continued to mount over the possibility of studios deploying generative artificial intelligence to fully write scripts. But intellectual property law has long said that copyrights are only granted to works created by humans, and that doesn’t seem likely to change any time soon.
A federal judge on Friday upheld a finding by the US Copyright Office that an artwork created by AI is not susceptible to protection. The ruling was made in an order to reject Stephen Thaler’s bid and challenge the government’s position to refuse to register works created by AI. Copyright law has “never stretched this far” to “protect works generated by new forms of technology that operate without any guiding human hand,” said U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell.
The opinion stressed, “Human authorship is a basic requirement.”
The push to protect works created by AI has been spearheaded by Thaler, CEO of neural network company Imagination Engines. In 2018, he listed an AI system, the Creativity Machine, as the sole creator of a work of art called A recent entry into paradise, which was described as “made autonomous by a computer algorithm running on a machine.” The Copyright Office rejected the application because “the connection between the human mind and creative expression” is a crucial element of protection.
Thaler, who listed himself as the copyright owner under the work-for-hire doctrine, filed a lawsuit challenging the agency’s denial and human authorship requirement. He argued that AI should be recognized “as an author where it otherwise meets the criteria for authorship”, with ownership vested in the owner of the machine. His complaint argued that the agency’s refusal was “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and inconsistent with the law,” in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act, which provides for judicial review of agency actions. The question in the lawsuit was whether a work created exclusively by a computer is protected by copyright.
“In the absence of any human involvement in the creation of the work, the plain and simple answer is that of the registry: no,” Howell wrote.
US copyright law, she stressed, “protects only works of human creation” and is “designed to move with the times.” There is a consistent understanding that human creativity is “at the heart of copyright, even as human creativity is channeled through new tools or into new media,” the ruling said.
While cameras generated a mechanical reproduction of a scene, she explained that this only happens after a human has developed a “mental image” of the photo, which is the product of decisions such as where the subject is, setup and lighting, among other things. choices.
“Human involvement in, and ultimate creative control over, the work in question was key to the conclusion that the new type of work fell within the bounds of copyright,” Howell wrote.
Several courts have come to the same conclusion. In one of the most important copyright authorship cases, Burrow-Giles Lithographic Company v. Sarony, the Supreme Court ruled that there was “no doubt” that the protection could be extended to photographs as long as “they are representative of the author’s original intellectual views. ” The judges referred to such authors as human beings only, describing them as a class of “persons” and a copyright as the “right of a man to the production of his own genius or intellect.”
In another case, the federal appeals court said that a photo taken by a monkey cannot be copyrighted since animals are not eligible for protection, though the lawsuit was ruled on other grounds. Howell cited the ruling in her decision. “Plaintiff cannot point to any case in which a court has recognized copyright in a work that originated with a non-human,” said the order, which resulted in a preliminary injunction in favor of the copyright office.
The judge also examined the purpose of copyright law, which she says is to “encourage human individuals to participate in” creation. Copyright and patents, she said, were conceived as “forms of property that government should protect, and it was clear that the recognition of exclusive rights to that property would advance the public good by incentivizing individuals to create and invent. ” The ruling continued: “The act of human creation – and how best to encourage human individuals to participate in that creation, thereby promoting science and useful arts – has thus been central to American copyright law from the very beginning.” Copyright isn’t designed to reach non-human actors, Howell said.
The order was issued as courts weighed the legality of AI companies training their systems on copyrighted works. The lawsuits, brought by artists and performers in California’s federal court, allege copyright infringement and could result in the companies having to destroy their grand language models.
In March, the Copyright Office confirmed that most AI-generated works are not copyrighted, but clarified that AI-enabled materials are eligible for protection in certain cases. An application for a work created using AI can support a copyright claim if a human selected or arranged it in a “sufficiently creative way so that the resulting work constitutes an original work of authorship,” it said.