You can’t copyright AI-created art, according to US officials

The USCO says copyrighted works 'must be created by a human being.'

Stephen Thaler/Creativity Machine

The US Copyright Office has once again denied an effort to copyright a work of art that was created by an artificial intelligence system. Dr. Stephen Thaler attempted to copyright a piece of art titled A Recent Entrance to Paradise, claiming in a second request for reconsideration of a 2019 ruling that the USCO's “human authorship” requirement was unconstitutional.

In its latest ruling, which was spotted by The Verge, the agency accepted that the work was created by an AI, which Thaler calls the Creativity Machine. Thaler applied to register the work as "as a work-for-hire to the owner of the Creativity Machine.”

However, the office said that current copyright law only offers protections to "the fruits of intellectual labor” that “are founded in the creative powers of the [human] mind.” As such, a copyrighted work "must be created by a human being” and the office says it won't register works “produced by a machine or mere mechanical process” that lack intervention or creative input from a human author.

The agency said Thaler failed to provide evidence that A Recent Entrance to Paradise is the result of human authorship. It also stated he was unable to convince the USCO's "to depart from a century of copyright jurisprudence" — in other words, to change the rules.

The ruling notes that courts at several levels, including the Supreme Court, have "uniformly limited copyright protection to creations of human authors" and that lower courts have "repeatedly rejected attempts to extend copyright protection to non-human creations," such as for photos taken by monkeys.

Thaler has put copyright and patent laws to the test in a number of countries. He has attempted to have an AI called DABUS recognized as the inventor of two products in patent applications. The US Patent and Trademark Office, UK Intellectual Property Office and European Patent Office rejected the applications because the credited inventor wasn't human. Appeals have been filed against those rulings and ones in Australia and Germany.

However, a judge in Australia ruled last year that AI-created inventions can qualify for patent protection. South Africa granted Thaler a patent for one of the products last year and noted "the invention was autonomously generated by an artificial intelligence."