In a world increasingly dominated by AI and its vast capabilities, a recent ruling on AI-generated art and copyright has made waves in both the tech and entertainment sectors. The question at the core of this debate is simple yet profound: Can art created by AI be copyrighted?
The Most Recent Verdict: AI Can’t Hold Copyright
A federal judge recently affirmed a determination from the U.S. Copyright Office that art pieces created solely by AI aren’t shielded by copyright laws. This decision by U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell emphasizes that historically, copyright law has never shielded works produced by novel technological means that lack a human touch.
Stephen Thaler, CEO of Imagination Engines, has been at the forefront, advocating for the copyright of AI-generated works. Thaler’s stance was that if AI outputs fit the criteria of authorship, they should be copyrightable. However, Judge Howell, in her ruling, stated that without any human participation in the creation, the work isn’t protected, underscoring that “copyright law protects only works of human creation.”
A Nuanced Take from the Copyright Office
However, the U.S. Copyright Office seems to hold a more nuanced perspective. Earlier this year, the Office indicated its willingness to grant protection to AI-generated works, albeit on a “case-by-case” basis. The criteria? If a piece is entirely AI’s creation, it’s not copyrightable. But if humans craft it with AI assistance, it might be.
Director of the Copyright Office, Shira Perlmutter, explained that AI’s role would be examined to determine if it’s merely a “mechanical reproduction” or if it stems from an author’s “own original mental conception.”
Far-Reaching Implications for the Entertainment Industry
With Hollywood writers, part of the WAG/SAG-AFTRA union, on strike for over 100 days, this ruling is especially relevant. One of the underlying fears triggering the strike was the looming threat of studios employing generative AI to pen scripts or even “act” in films. This could not only make certain roles obsolete but also potentially downgrade the quality of content.
The recent ruling seems to throw a wrench in the studios’ potential backup plans. If AI-generated scripts or performances can’t be copyrighted, it compromises the very foundation of the entertainment industry: intellectual property.
The AI and copyright debate underscores the broader conversation about technology’s place in creative fields. While AI offers unprecedented capabilities, the recent ruling champions human creativity’s uniqueness and the legal structures designed to protect it. As the worlds of AI and entertainment continue to intersect, it will be crucial to strike a balance that both embraces innovation and honors human creativity. At the time of writing this, September 2023, the Copyright Office recently issued a Notice of Inquiry on Copyright and Artificial Intelligence. They want to study the issues further and see if any regulatory or legislative steps should be taken.
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DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney.