Copyright Office Rejects Registration for AI-Created Works

Thaler filed an application to register the copyright in this work, entitled “A Recent Entrance to Paradise”:

Thaler explained the work “was autonomously created by a computer algorithm running on a machine” and he was “seeking to register this computer-generated work as a work-for-hire to the owner of the Creativity Machine.”

The Copyright Office repeatedly refused to register the work for lack of authorship. As the Copyright Office’s Compendium explains:

the Office will not register works “produced by a machine or mere mechanical process” that operates “without any creative input or intervention from a human author” because, under the statute, “a work must be created by a human being”

Thaler appealed the denial to the Copyright Review Board. The CRB’s tart response:

Thaler must either provide evidence that the Work is the product of human authorship or convince the Office to depart from a century of copyright jurisprudence. He has done neither….

After reviewing the statutory text, judicial precedent, and longstanding Copyright Office practice, the Board again concludes that human authorship is a prerequisite to copyright protection in the United States and that the Work therefore cannot be registered.

Though this decision is hardly surprising, it’s another bucket of cold water on AI exceptionalism. A community of AI enthusiasts repeatedly and breathlessly hype how AI poses huge new challenges for the law. In fact, AI doesn’t pose any challenge to any existing laws that assume, expressly or implicitly, that humans must take any legally significant action. Unless and until legislatures update those laws to contemplate non-human actors, activity by AI is simply irrelevant to those laws.

As for this ruling, I celebrate any legal doctrine that increases society’s supply of creative works that are not restricted by copyright law. We all benefit from a large and growing corpus of works in the commons that we can freely enjoy. Naruto agrees…!