Copyright Office Refuses to ‘Register Works Entirely Generated by AI’


The United States Copyright Office (USCO) has doubled down on its stance regarding artificial intelligence (AI), stating unequivocally that it will not register works generated entirely by AI.

In a webinar today, the Copyright Office states clearly that it views AI-generated content as “unclaimable material” ranking it alongside other unclaimable material such as previously published material, previously registered material, public domain material, and copyright material owned by another party.

“The Office will refuse to register works entirely generated by AI,” says Robert Kasunic of the USCO. “Human authorship is a precondition to copyrightability.”

It means there is no change since March when the Office issued guidance where it likened text prompts to “instructions to a commissioned artist.” Essentially comparing them to a magazine editor hiring a photographer.

“Today’s webinar made a few things clear: 1) Appreciable Human Authorship is still the main requirement of copyrightability; 2) the USCO is expecting applicants to become much more comfortable with the procedure to disclaim materials,” says Thomas Maddrey of the American Media Society of Photographers (ASMP).

“And the USCO is not going to give photographers a break on the requirement to use the Standard Application (as of now).”

The Standard Application means photographers must register works individually, and pay a fee each time, rather than a Group Application which allows them to register 750 images in one swoop and only pay one fee for the batch.

Can You Register Works That Contain Generative-AI Material?

The Office will allow photos and other works that contain AI elements but those elements must be declared as unclaimable, essentially discounting them.

USCO AI copyright

During the webinar, the Office gave the above example where it says that if the forest was generated by AI then it is considered appreciative and must be declared as an unclaimable element. But if the forest was changed from blue to green with AI then that it is deemed “de minimis” and does not need to be disclosed.

But say if a photographer is planning to make appreciable changes to a photo, the original photos without the modification can be registered even if that person only ever intends to display the AI-generated version publicly.

Where Does This Leave AI Artists?

While photographers may not like the term AI photographer or even “synthographers” there are numerous of them out there using tools like Midjourney to create visually stunning work.

But as it stands, what these people are creating has zero protection meaning anyone or anything can use their works for any purpose they like.

Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.