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United States: generative AI not subject to copyright law

US courts confirm US Copyright Office decision, challenged by CEO of Imagination Engines.

Digital transition - September 05, 2023

On August 18, 2023, US federal judge Beryl Howell confirmed the US Copyright Office’s decision stating that copyright law does not apply to works created by generative AI. The US institution in charge of ruling on matters of intellectual property had settled the issue several months ago. Yet Stephen Thaler, head of Imagination Engines, challenged the decision.

Indeed, Imagination Engines built an AI model dubbed Creativity Machine, which generated an image titled “A Recent Entrance to Paradise.” The US government refused to copyright the image, leading to Stephen Thaler’s complaint.

Judge Howell’s decision specifies that copyright law does not apply to writing, film, music or images generated with AI tools, “absent any human involvement in the creative process.” According to the court, the fact that humans train the AI is not enough to copyright the work.

Stephen Thaler decided to appeal the decision. The issue is commercially significant: if a work is not protected by copyright, its creator cannot prevent its use by third parties.

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