‘AI Machines Are Entitled to Copyright’: Man Takes His Case to Federal Court

A Recent Entrance to Paradise by Stephen Thaler’s Creativity Machine system

A computer scientist who is trying to obtain copyrights for his artificial intelligence (AI) system has taken his case to a federal court.

Last year, Stephen Thaler had his request rejected by the U.S. Copyright Office but has now asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to overturn that decision.

Thaler is seeking a pre-trial win for the lawsuit he filed with the federal court in June last year. His case is significant because it’s one of the first involving copyright and AI-generated work. As his case has progressed, AI image generators such as DALL-E and Stable Diffusion have exploded in popularity.

Thaler’s attorney Ryan Abbott of Brown Neri Smith & Khal tells the news agency Reuters that “there is a real financial importance to this case that might not have been so readily apparent a year and a half ago.”

In his federal court filing, Thaler says that copyright law “does not restrict copyright to human-made works, nor does any case law,” and that the Office’s ruling was based on an outdated precedent.

“The fact that various courts have referred to creative activity in human-centric terms, based on the fact that creativity has traditionally been human-centric and romanticized, is very different than there being a legal requirement for human creativity,” Thaler’s filing says.

Copyright Office Rejection

The Copyright Office rejected the registration for the artwork A Recent Entrance to Paradise which was created autonomously by Thaler’s Creativity Machine system. Thaler’s application named the system itself as the work’s creator.

The Office said in May 2020 that Thaler had “provided no evidence on sufficient creative input or intervention by a human author in the Work” and that it would not “abandon its longstanding interpretation of the Copyright Act, Supreme Court, and lower court judicial precedent that a work meets the legal and formal requirements of copyright protection only if it is created by a human author.”

According to Reuters, Thaler has fought to obtain copyright recognition on behalf of his image-generating system in 18 jurisdictions around the world. They have all proved to be unsuccessful so far including in the U.S., U.K., European Union, and Australia. The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom will hear Thaler’s case in March.

Image credits: Featured image licensed via Depositphotos.