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AI-generated art can’t by copyrighted, federal judge rules, with potential consequences for Hollywood studios

AI-generated art can’t by copyrighted, federal judge rules, with potential consequences for Hollywood studios


  • Plaintiff Stephen Thaler sued the US Copyright Office to try and have his AI system listed as the creator of an artwork.
  • But a federal judge ruled against him, because “human authorship is a bedrock requirement of copyright.”
  • The ruling could impact the strikes in Hollywood, where AI is a key issue. 

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A federal judge ruled that a piece of art generated by AI can’t be copyrighted, a decision that could have consequences for Hollywood studios.

The lawsuit, first reported by The Hollywood Reporter, was brought against the US Copyright Office by plaintiff Stephen Thaler, in an attempt to list his own AI system as the sole creator of an artwork called “A Recent Entrance to Paradise.”

Thaler has previously filed other lawsuits related to AI inventions, such as listing his AI machine as an inventor in a patent application.

In Friday’s ruling, US District Judge Beryl Howell upheld the Copyright Office’s decision to reject Thaler’s copyright application.

She said humans are an “essential part of a valid copyright claim” and “human authorship is a bedrock requirement of copyright.”

“Plaintiff can point to no case in which a court has recognized copyright in a work originating with a non-human,” Howell added.

The judge also cited the famous “monkey selfie” case, in which photographer David Slater was sued for claiming copyright on an image that a crested macaque took with Slater’s camera. The court found that non-humans don’t have any legal authority for copyright claims.

However, Howell also suggested that future cases could become more complex and “will prompt challenging questions regarding how much human input is necessary to qualify the user of an AI system as an ‘author’ of a generated work.”

The ruling could still provoke apprehension among Hollywood studios in relation to the contract dispute with striking actors and writers.

AI is a key issue in the strike, amid concerns that the technology could be used to write screenplays or reproduce actors’ likenesses.

But if studios can’t gain copyright protections over any work produced by AI, that could temper such ambitions.

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