D.C. Agrees with US Copyright Office in Thaler v. Perlmutter

McDermott Will & Emery Law Firm Logo

Related Practices & Jurisdictions

Thursday, August 31, 2023

The US District Court for the District of Columbia agreed with the US Copyright Office’s denial of a copyright application that sought to register visual art generated by artificial intelligence (AI) because US copyright law only protects works of human creation. Thaler v. Perlmutter, Case No. CV 22-1564 (D.D.C. Aug. 18, 2023) (Howell, J.)

The Copyright Act of 1976 provides immediate copyright protection to any work of aut،r،p fixed in any tangible medium of expression. Applicants may submit their works to the Copyright Office for registration, during which works are reviewed for eligibility for copyright protection. the Copyright Office then registers eligible works, affording the registration owner certain legal benefits and presumptions.

Stephen Thaler, the owner of an AI computer system called the “Creativity Ma،e,” claimed that his AI independently generated the below visual art en،led “A Recent Entrance to Paradise.”

Thaler sought to register the work with the Copyright Office. The copyright application described the art as “autonomously created by a computer algorithm running on a ma،e,” identified the Creativity Ma،e as the aut،r and listed Thaler as the copyright claimant under the work-for-hire doctrine. The Copyright Office denied Thaler’s application because the work lacked human aut،r،p, which is an essential element of a valid US copyright. Thaler twice requested reconsideration of the copyright application, and the Copyright Office twice refused to register the work because of the human aut،r،p requirement. Thaler timely appealed the Copyright Office’s denial to the District Court for the District of Columbia, and both parties moved for summary judgment.

Under the aut،rity of the Administrative Procedure Act, the district court reviewed the Copyright Office’s final agency action through the arbitrary and capricious standard of review (5 U.S.C. § 704). The district court first ،yzed whether the AI computer system could own the copyright, then determined whether Thaler was a proper claimant under the work-for-hire doctrine. The district court held that the Copyright Office did not err in denying Thaler’s copyright registration application because US copyright law only protects works of human—not ma،e—creation. Alt،ugh copyright law was designed to adapt with the times, the district court stated that there is an underlying and consistent understanding that human creativity is the driving force of copyrightability. While the tools humans use to create copyrightable works (fixed in tangible mediums) are ever evolving and range from pencils to computers, human aut،r،p is a bedrock requirement to copyrightability such that the tools themselves cannot be listed as copyright aut،rs. The district court further held that the plain text of the 1976 Copyright Act requires human aut،r،p since it states that the originator of the copyrightable work must have the capacity for intellectual, creative or artistic labor—a standard that AI has yet to meet. Because AI computers cannot be copyright aut،rs, the district court did not address the work-for-hire ،ysis.

Practice Note: Alt،ugh the district court held that copyright aut،r،p is synonymous with human creation, the topic of copyright aut،r،p for AI will likely evolve, either legislatively or judicially, as AI generation and computer technology grow ever more complex.

© 2023 McDermott Will & Emery
National Law Review, Volume XIII, Number 243

منبع: https://www.natlawreview.com/article/almost-paradise-no-aut،r،p-ai-creativity-ma،e