AI-generated art

AI-Generated Art and Copyright: A New Legal Frontier

In the ever-evolving world of technology, artificial intelligence (AI) has taken center stage, especially in the realm of art. But with this rise comes a pressing question: Can AI-generated art be copyrighted?

The Case at Hand

The United States District Court recently witnessed a landmark ruling. Judge Beryl A. Howell declared that AI-generated artwork cannot be copyrighted. This decision came to light during a lawsuit against the US Copyright Office, which had denied a copyright request by Stephen Thaler for an image produced using his Creativity Machine algorithm.

Thaler’s intention was to copyright the image as a “work-for-hire” for the owner of the Creativity Machine. This would have recognized the algorithm as the creator and Thaler as the owner of the artwork. However, his attempts met with consistent rejection.

The Judge’s Perspective

Judge Howell’s decision was rooted in the principle that copyright has historically never been granted to works devoid of human intervention. She emphasized that “human authorship is a bedrock requirement of copyright.”

To illustrate her point, Judge Howell referenced past cases, including the famous “monkey selfie” incident. However, she also highlighted a contrasting case where a woman received copyright for a book she believed was dictated to her by a supernatural entity.

The Future of AI and Copyright

While the current ruling leans towards human involvement being essential for copyright, Judge Howell acknowledged the evolving landscape. She recognized that artists are increasingly using AI as a tool, leading to “challenging questions regarding how much human input is necessary” for AI-generated art to be copyrighted. Especially since AI models often draw from pre-existing works.

Stephen Thaler, undeterred by the ruling, plans to appeal. His attorney, Ryan Abbot, expressed disagreement with the court’s interpretation of the Copyright Act. On the other hand, the US Copyright Office supported the court’s decision.

The Larger Picture

The intersection of US copyright law and AI remains a gray area, with numerous court cases emerging. Notable cases include authors like Sarah Silverman suing tech giants like OpenAI and Meta over data scraping practices. Another lawsuit alleges that data scraping by companies like Microsoft and OpenAI equates to software piracy.


The debate around AI-generated art and copyright is far from over. As technology continues to advance, the legal landscape will need to adapt and redefine the boundaries of creation, ownership, and rights. It’s a brave new world, and only time will tell how the scales of justice will balance innovation with protection.


  1. What was Stephen Thaler’s intention in seeking copyright? He wanted to copyright the AI-generated image as a “work-for-hire” for the owner of the Creativity Machine, recognizing the algorithm as the creator and himself as the owner.
  2. Why did Judge Howell rule against copyrighting AI-generated art? She emphasized that human authorship has always been a fundamental requirement for copyright.
  3. Are there any contrasting cases to the AI-generated art copyright issue? Yes, Judge Howell highlighted a case where a woman received copyright for a book she believed was supernaturally dictated to her.
  4. What does the future hold for AI and copyright? The landscape is evolving, with artists increasingly using AI as a tool. This leads to questions about the necessary human input for AI-generated art to be copyrighted.
  5. Are there other notable lawsuits related to AI and copyright? Yes, including authors suing tech giants over data scraping practices and allegations equating data scraping to software piracy.

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