Federal judge says AI-generated artwork can't be copyrighted, because of monkeys

A US District Court judge has ruled that AI-generated artwork is not eligible to be copyrighted, stressing that, "Human authorship is a bedrock requirement." The decision follows an appeal by Stephen Thaler, an executive from a neural network firm called Imagination Engines, after he submitted a copyright claim on behalf of an AI system, which was in turn rejected by the US Copyright Office.

From The Hollywood Reporter:

Thaler, who listed himself as the owner of the copyright under the work-for-hire doctrine, sued in a lawsuit contesting the denial and the office's human authorship requirement. He argued that AI should be acknowledged "as an author where it otherwise meets authorship criteria," with any ownership vesting in the machine's owner. His complaint argued that the office's refusal was "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and not in accordance with the law" in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act, which provides for judicial review of agency actions. The question presented in the suit was whether a work generated solely by a computer falls under the protection of copyright law.

"In the absence of any human involvement in the creation of the work, the clear and straightforward answer is the one given by the Register: No," [District Judge Beryl] Howell wrote.

To support her argument, Judge Howell cited existing legal precedent—the infamous case of the monkey selfie, which determined that only works created by human beings can be copyrighted.

The good news, this may cause some TV/film/music executives to wake up from their wetdreams of replacing creatives with neural networks and machine learning algorithms, and start to panic about their future profit margins. On the down side, well, now I'm worried that the monkeys and the robots are going to team up to get their bloody revenge on humanity.

AI-Created Art Isn't Copyrightable, Judge Says in Ruling That Could Give Hollywood Studios Pause [Winston Cho / The Hollywood Reporter]