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  • Writer's pictureJamal Saafir

Artificial Intelligence Has Few Rights In The World Of Art

A hot topic among thespians, musicians, and artists as of late, is the gray area surrounding artificial intelligence (AI) and how it will affect their industries. The common sentiment is “we’re being replaced by AI” or “our jobs are in danger”, but a recent ruling from a federal judge may shed light on the value of being a “human” creator of art versus a programmed creator of art.

According to a report from CryptoSlate, on August 18th a federal judge ruled that art and media generated wholly by artificial intelligence does not enjoy the benefits of copyright protection.

The ruling concerns Stephen Thaler, who attempted to register a piece of AI-generated artwork with the U.S. Copyright Office in 2018. The office denied his copyright application because the work lacked human authorship. This, in turn, led Thaler to file a lawsuit against the U.S. Copyright Office and its top official, Shira Perlmutter, in 2022.

Thaler contended that he was the author of the computer system that generated the artwork and that copyright over its output should belong to him based upon this fact. However, the judge’s ruling found that the Copyright Office “did not err in denying the copyright registration application” because the non-human work was never under copyright at all.

Additionally, the judge expressed that the past expansion of copyright to new forms of media is immaterial in this context, as all previous types of media have had a “guiding human hand.” The judge also refuted that the term “author” in copyright law extends beyond human authors.

The judge recognized that AI could produce more complex cases that will determine how much human input is needed to obtain copyright over an AI-generated work. They added that the extent of copyright protection over AI works is yet to be established, as is the originality of works by systems trained on existing media.

Thaler’s case is clearly different from many previous lawsuits that were centered on whether AI companies have unlawfully used works under copyright.

Comedian and author Sarah Silverman notably filed suit against OpenAI and Meta over copyright infringement via their AI tools in July, while the New York Times considered similar action against OpenAI around Aug. 16. Three artists also filed suits against Stability AI and other firms in January. None of the above cases have achieved a final outcome.

Beyond the courtroom, YouTube has made known its intentions to use AI for copyright enforcement of music. Meanwhile, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) has demanded regulation around AI as part of an ongoing writers’ strike.

Future developments could have implications for the crypto sector. Many NFT generators, such as Binance, ChainGPT, StarryAI, and NightCafe, depend greatly on AI tools. Regardless of whether lawsuits directly go after the NFT space, AI services’ availability and legality could significantly impact the options of NFT platforms and creators.

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