A federal judge has ruled that art that was wholly created by artificial intelligence technology is not protected by copyright law — a decision that could have far-reaching implications for Hollywood as studios continue to adopt AI as a creative tool.
U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell handed down her ruling Friday, saying “human authorship is a bedrock requirement” when it comes to copyright protections. But she also acknowledged that AI poses many ambiguities, especially when artists use the technology as one of many tools to aid them in their creations.
The judge was ruling on a case brought against the U.S. Copyright Office after it rejected an application by Stephen Thaler to copyright an AI-generated image made by an algorithm of his creation called The Creativity Machine. The image is an Impressionist-style depiction of a rural railroad track surrounded by lush green and purple foliage.
Thaler alleged the office’s rejection was “arbitrary” and “capricious,” and didn’t follow the law.
— Eoin O'Dell (@cearta) August 20, 2023
Judge Howell disagreed, arguing that the image has no human authorship.
“The Register did not err in denying the copyright registration application presented by plaintiff,” Howell wrote.
The debate over AI technology in the creative fields has already spawned one prominent lawsuit brought by actress-comedian Sarah Silverman, who is suing Facebook parent company Meta as well as ChatGPT firm OpenAI for copyright infringement, claiming they used her written content without permission to train AI language models.
In Hollywood, AI has become a primary point of contention between studios and striking writers and actors.
Striking Hollywood talent is demanding guarantees that they won’t be replaced by AI. But with the strikes showing no signs of ending, studios are ramping up investment in AI in ways that are expected to change the industry forever.
A prominent talent lawyer for A-list stars recently predicted that the writers strike will accelerate the industry’s adoption of AI, saying the longer the strike lasts, the more scripts will be written by AI.
“I absolutely promise you that some people are already working on getting scripts written by AI, and the longer the strike lasts, the more resources will be poured into that effort,” attorney Leigh Brecheen said.
Many are predicting that studios will still employ writers in some capacity to polish or revise AI-generated scripts, which could complicate copyright matters for showbiz content.