With the increasing use of the new AI systems to generate images and other works, the question arises as to who can claim the copyright for them. The first court decisions in the USA are now bringing increasing clarity here.
The AI is not a ghost painter
A federal court recently ruled that a work of art created by artificial intelligence is not protectable. This was reported by the US magazine Hollywood Reporter. The court thus confirmed the decision of an earlier instance, which had dismissed a complaint. In that case, the competent authorities should be forced to register a corresponding work as protected by copyright.
This lawsuit was led by Stephen Thaler, head of AI developer Imagination Engines. Its AI system generated an image titled “A Recent Entrance to Paradise.” The U.S. Copyright Office denied the application for registration, arguing that “the connection between the human spirit and creative expression” is a critical element of protection.
Thaler, on the other hand, argued that we are dealing here with a process that is commonplace in the media world: In the USA, property rights are regularly registered for people who have had a work produced as a commissioned work. From his point of view, there should therefore be no difference whether this work was done by a ghost painter or an AI.
The human intervention counts
However, the courts referred to the wording of US copyright law. This is certainly designed in such a way that it can be adapted to new developments. However, the core of protection must be an act of human creativity, even if new tools are used here. However, this is not the case if a self-learning algorithm creates an image or another work without human intervention.
A similar tendency has meanwhile become apparent in other judgments of this type. Screenwriters and actors, for example, fear that they will increasingly have to compete with AI systems. However, film studios must now expect that their rights to films or series will no longer apply as comprehensively as before if the use of AI becomes too extensive.
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