A victory for humankind

A U.S. judge rules that AI-generated works of art cannot be copyrighted

Last Friday, August 18, one of the first court rulings to address the question of whether works created by AIs can be copyrighted came to light.

The proceeding was brought by the plaintiff, computer scientist Stephen Thaler, who filed an application to register the copyright of a work of visual art entitled “A Recent Entry into Paradise” with the US Copyright Office (USCO).

The work was created using a computer system created by Thaler, called “Creativity Machine”. The USCO denies registration of the copyright application on the grounds that “AI creations, however advanced and unique, are the result of algorithms and not of a conscious mind. They therefore lack the human component essential to copyright.”

The copyright law applicable in the United States does not expressly contemplate the need for the author of the work to be a natural person as a requirement for the recognition of the rights, and that is why the plaintiff goes to the Courts requesting the correct interpretation of the law and the consequent protection of the work.

After an extensive reflection in which they take into account different previous judgments that, by analogy, they consider applicable to the case in question, the Court concludes that human intervention is necessary -intervention that is not enough with the mere insertion of a prompt- when creating the work so that it can benefit from copyright and, consequently, rejects the claim.

In any case, this extensive American debate would have no place in the Spanish legal framework, since article 5.1 of the Revised Text of our Intellectual Property Law expressly establishes the requirement of the natural person as the creator of the work to be able to benefit from the application of copyright. Specifically, it establishes that: “The natural person who creates a literary, artistic or scientific work is considered the author”. Consequently, only a human can benefit from copyright.

However, as AIs continue to advance and their use by the public becomes more and more widespread, we will have to see how the current rules – in my opinion, too outdated to regulate this type of technology – continue to be applied, and the determination of the degree of human intervention necessary for copyright to be admissible will become increasingly blurred.


*Image displayed: Stephen Thaler’s AI-generated artwork (Steven Thaler and/or Creativity Machine)

Case number: Case No. 1:22-cv-01564-BAH, Stephen Thaler v The United States Copyright Office