August 22, 2023
A federal judge late last week nixed a bid to copyright artwork created through AI -- upholding an earlier denial from the US Copyright Office. The ruling could have widespread implications for the emerging technology’s use cases.
US District Judge Beryl Howell on Friday ruled that only works with human authors can receive copyrights in the United States. Stephen Thaler, computer scientist and creator of the DABUS AI system, had appealed the Copyright Office denial. The decision follows losses for Thaler’s efforts to acquire US patents for inventions created by DABUS, short for Device for the Autonomous Bootstrapping of Unified Science.
“Plaintiff can point to no case in which a court has recognized copyright in a work originating with a non-human,” Howell wrote in her decision. She acknowledged the unique situation, adding that “we are approaching new frontiers in copyright as artists put AI in their toolbox.”
Thaler’s lawyer, Ryan Abbott, in a statement said his client would appeal the ruling and said the fight was important as generative AI’s quick rise continues. “Do we want rules where you can own what comes out of artificial intelligence?” he said. “Or do we want rules that only protect very traditional, human artworks?
The Copyright Office said in a statement that it agreed with Howell’s ruling.
No Luck for AI Patent Efforts
Thaler has also applied for patents from the United Kingdom, South Africa, Australia, and Saudi Arabia. Thaler’s unsuccessfully tried to bring his patent fight to the US Supreme Court. The court in April denied hearing his challenge to the US Patent and Trademark Office’s refusal to issue patents for his AI-created inventions.
Thaler founded Imagination Engines, an advanced artificial neural networking technology company based in Saint Charles, Missouri. Thaler said his DABUS system created unique prototypes for a beverage holder and emergency light beacon entirely on its own.
The Patent and Trademark Office decision was upheld by the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, saying US patent law requires inventors to be human beings.
Thaler’s complaint to the Supreme Court said that rejecting AI-generated patents “curtails our patent system’s ability -- and thwarts Congress’s intent -- to optimally stimulate innovation and technological prowess.”
Of Friday’s decision Howell wrote that AI poses “challenging questions” for copyright law.
“This case, however, is not nearly so complex,” she wrote.
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