US Federal Judge: AI-Generated Art Not Protected under U.S. Copyright Law

The implications of this ruling are vast for both artists and developers.

Showcase of Art created with Midjourney (Image: Midjourney)

Artworks produced by such as MidJourney, Dall-E or Bing Image Creator are not eligible for copyright protection, according to a recent ruling by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The contentious debate over whether AI-generated creations qualify for copyright protection has reached a pivotal moment as the U.S. Copyright Office and the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia have now decided on the matter. The United States Copyright Office had previously emphasized that only works created by humans can be copyrighted.

AI does not have legal personhood

In the memorandum opinion by Judge Beryl A. Howell, it was stated that “AI machines do not have legal personhood, nor can they have the necessary intent to create something original.” The Court further elaborated, explaining that “while the question of AI's capacity to create original work is intriguing, it does not alter the requirement for an identifiable human author.”

Implications for artists and developers

The implications of this ruling are vast for both artists and developers. With AI becoming an ever-growing presence in various artistic domains, this decision delineates clear boundaries regarding rights and ownership. Developers might feel hesitant to share AI-generated art with a broader audience, fearing unregulated reproductions.

Backdrop of the case

The case that precipitated this judgment, as outlined in the memorandum opinion, revolved around the plaintiff, Stephen Thaler, who sought to copyright an image produced by an “AI machine”. Thaler argued that the AI had created the artwork autonomously without human intervention. However, Judge Howell's opinion iterated, “The Copyright Act‘s recognition of an ‘author' contemplates a human author.”

Image Generative AI: A Competitive Market

with it´s DALL-E image creator is competing with several companies in the field of image generative AI. Several companies and organizations have been developing and improving their own AI image generators, using different techniques and datasets.

  • NVIDIA has been advancing the state-of-the-art in generative AI research, with new methods to enhance the realism and quality of AI-generated images.
  • , the research organization behind , has also introduced ShapE, a generative model that can create 3D models from text, opening up new possibilities for AI in image creation.
  • Stability AI, a startup that focuses on generative AI, has released StableStudio, an open-source web app that uses its Stable Diffusion model to generate images from text prompts. Users can also use DreamStudio features to make multiple variations of an image with different styles and attributes.
  • Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, has unveiled I-JEPA, its own AI image generator based on its generative transformer model. I-JEPA can learn the associations between words and images, and generate realistic images from text descriptions.
  • Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant, has launched Tongyi Wanxiang, a generative AI image generator that can handle both Chinese and English languages. Users can customize the image output parameters using Composer, a large model developed by Alibaba Cloud.