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AI Art Can't Be Copyrighted, Federal Judge Rules

AI Art Can't Be Copyrighted, Federal Judge Rules
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Hollywood studios were dealt a major blow amidst ongoing strikes when a federal judge ruled AI artwork cannot be copyrighted.

Art generated by artificial intelligence can't be copyrighted, a federal judge has ruled, marking a decision that could have profound impacts on the ongoing Hollywood strikes.

Stephen Thaler filed the initial lawsuit against the U.S. Copyright Office, first reported by The Hollywood Reporter, seeking to list his AI system as the sole creator of an artwork. U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell ruled Friday that copyright law has “never stretched so far” to “protect works generated by new forms of technology operating absent any guiding human hand."

Howell wrote that humans are an "essential part of a valid copyright claim" and "human authorship is a bedrock requirement of copyright." She stressed that "human creativity" is “at the core of copyrightability, even as that human creativity is channeled through new tools or into new media." Thus, copyright law “protects only works of human creation."

“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,” she said, noting, "Plaintiff can point to no case in which a court has recognized copyright in a work originating with a non-human."

Howell also said that Thaler's lawsuit was "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and not in accordance with the law."

AI development and usage has been a motivating factor behind the ongoing Hollywood strikes. The Writer's Guild has called on studios to protect creative professions be ensuring writers are not replaced with AI, which draws from existing materials uncredited.

Actors have also rallied against the use of artificial intelligence in production. According to SAG-AFTRA’s chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, studios proposed that "background performers should be able to be scanned, get one day’s pay, and their companies should own that scan, their image, their likeness and should be able to use it for the rest of eternity on any project they want, with no consent and no compensation."

While it is unclear how the lawsuit could impact actors, it could have an effect on the copyrightability of scripts written by AI.

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