AI Cannot Hold Copyright to Artworks, U.S. Review Board Rules

In 2018, President & CEO, Imagination Engines, Inc. Dr. Steven Thaler sent a request to the U.S,. Copyright review board asking that they register an artwork to an AI he had invented, Creativity Machine. That board rejected his application, which he appealed. Last week, the review board once again refused to grant an AI a copyright because, it said, copyright can only be granted to humans.

The work in question is a two-dimensional image of train tracks passing under ivy-covered archways, titled A Recent Entrance to Paradise. Thaler has been experimenting with artificial intelligence since the 1980s, focusing on how programming his Creativity Machine for modes intended to mirror depressive and manic cycles alters its creative expression.

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A Recent Entrance to Paradise is part of a series Creativity Machine produced on the subject of a near-death experience. Thaler said the work “was autonomously created by a computer algorithm running on a machine,” according to court documents.

The U.S. Copyright review board said that this goes against the basic tenets of copyright law, which suggest that the work must be the product of a human mind. “Thaler must either provide evidence that the Work is the product of human authorship or convince the Office to depart from a century of copyright jurisprudence. He has done neither,” wrote the review board in its decision.

Thaler has not been seeking to be named the registered author of this work. Rather, he argued that “the Office’s human authorship requirement is unconstitutional and unsupported by case law,” according to court documents.

There have been past cases where non-human animals and even divine beings (one claimant alleged that the text of a book came from spiritual forces) were denied their copyright claims. “The Court has continued to articulate the nexus between the human mind and creative expression as a prerequisite for copyright protection,” read the court documents.


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