Computer scientist makes case for AI-generated copyrights in US appeal

Credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC

By Blake Brittain

Jan 23 (Reuters) - Creative works generated entirely by artificial intelligence should be eligible for copyright protection, computer scientist Stephen Thaler told a federal appeals court in Washington this week.

Thaler on Monday asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to reverse the U.S. Copyright Office's decision that human authorship is required for a work to be copyright protected, arguing that granting copyrights for AI creations would support the broader goals of copyright law.

"Copyright law has accommodated non-human authorship for more than a century," Thaler's attorney Ryan Abbott told Reuters on Tuesday, noting that corporations can be considered authors under the Copyright Act.

The U.S. Copyright Office declined to comment.

Thaler applied in 2018 for a copyright covering "A Recent Entrance to Paradise," a piece of visual art that he said his AI system DABUS created without any human input. The office rejected the application in 2022 and said that creative works must have human authors to be copyrightable.

A federal district court judge in Washington affirmed the office's decision last year and said that human authorship is a "bedrock requirement of copyright" based on "centuries of settled understanding."

Thaler told the appeals court on Monday that "nothing in the Copyright Act requires human creation."

"What the Act's language indicates is that when an entity — a natural person, a corporation, a machine — generates a creative work, that entity is the author," Thaler said.

Thaler also said that protecting AI-created art would be in line with U.S. copyright law's overarching purpose to incentivize the creation and distribution of creative works.

Rejecting AI copyrights would "eliminate critical financial incentives to create and disseminate such works because anyone could freely use them without license," Thaler said, and "discourage investment and labor in a critically new and important developing field."

A separate U.S. appeals court rejected Thaler's bid for patents covering AI-generated inventions, in a decision that the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review last year. The UK Supreme Court ruled against Thaler in a similar case in December.

Thaler has several related cases still pending in other countries.

The Copyright Office has also separately rejected two artists'bids for copyrights on images generated by the AI system Midjourney. Unlike Thaler, the artists argued that the images stemmed from their own creative processes.

The case is Thaler v. Perlmutter, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, No. 23-5233.

For Thaler: Ryan Abbott of Brown Neri Smith & Khan

For the Copyright Office: Nicholas Crown of the U.S. Department of Justice

Read more:

Computer scientist says AI 'artist' deserves its own copyrights

AI-generated art cannot receive copyrights, US court says

(Reporting by Blake Brittain in Washington)

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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