US District Judge Beryl A. Howell has ruled that “human authorship is an essential part of a valid copyright claim.”
The US district courts are the trial courts of the US federal judiciary and hear cases that involve questions of federal law.
Howell affirmed the US Copyright Office’s rejection of computer scientist Stephen Thaler’s 2018 application for “A Recent Entrance to Paradise,” a piece of visual art created by AI without human involvement. His application was rejected last year by the Office on the grounds it lacked human authors.
Thaler applied for copyright on behalf of his Device for the Autonomous Bootstrapping of Unified Sentience, or DABUS, program.
Thaler’s DABUS system is one of several AI systems used to generate images or art via user input prompts. DALL-E2 and Midjourney rose to prominence last year when they were used to generate covers for The Atlantic and The Economist. In December 2022, Midjourney generated illustrations for a children’s book, Alice and Sparkle.
Friday’s ruling sets a new standard for intellectual property (IP) issues in the field of AI. Fears that AI is trained using copyrighted material have resulted in several lawsuits.
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In July, comedian Sarah Silverman announced a lawsuit against OpenAI and Meta for alleged copyright infringement, claiming that the companies used their work in their training data without permission.
In January 2023, Getty images announced a lawsuit against Stability Ai in London’s High Court of Justice alleging the image generator infringed on Getty’s copyrighted photographs.
And, in February, visual artists Sarah Andersen, Kelly McKernan, and Karla Ortiz filed a class action complaint in a US District Court in California against defendants Stability AI, Midjourney and DeviantArt, alleging that their works were used without permission to train AI.