US federal judge rules AI gen images are not protected by copyright

By: Rob Corbidge, 21 August 2023

Monkey wearing a baseball cap, headphones, smiling, classical art, 4k,

Judge rules that generated images cannot fall under existing copyright laws.

Images made using generative AI are not protected under US copyright laws, a Federal judge has ruled.

In a case that was brought by Stephen Thaler against The United States Copyright Office, the court was asked to rule on whether someone register a copyright in a creative work made by an artificial intelligence.

The US Copyright Office had refused an application from Thaler requesting to be recognised as the artwork's owner with the machine algorithm recognised as the author. 

The US Copyright office rejected the request the due to a lack of human creativity involvement in the artwork creation process.

Hearing the case in a Washington DC district court, Judge Beryl A Howell ruled   for the Copyright Office, saying "Human involvement in, and ultimate creative control over, the work at issue was key to the conclusion that the new type of work fell within the bounds of copyright."

Howell commented that copyright law had "never stretched so far" to "protect works generated by new forms of technology operating absent any guiding human hand",

Judge Howell cited a number of precedents in her deliberation, such as the infamous Monkey Selfie copyright dispute.

Thaler plans to appeal the ruling. He is CEO of a neural network firm called Imagination Engines and in 2018 listed the Creativity Machine, an AI application, as the sole creator of an artwork called A Recent Entrance to Paradise.

The US Copyright Office declined the application as "the nexus between the human mind and creative expression" is a crucial element of protection.