Generative artificial intelligence has been a hot topic lately, especially in light of the ongoing strikes by the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA). Now, a ruling in a case related to AI-generated artwork appears to be a big win for those fighting for the rights of human content creators.
Noted AI advocate Stephen Thaler filed a lawsuit against Shira Perlmutter, the register of Copyrights and Director of the United States Copyright Office. Thaler’s lawsuit argued that his computer system, which he refers to as the “Creative Machine,” created a piece of visual art “of its own accord.” As a result, Thaler argued that said art was eligible for copyright protection. However, the piece of art was denied copyright protection due to the piece not having any human authorship.
Thaler’s lawsuit challenged the current standard of human creation, but U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell ruled in favor of Perlmutter and the U.S. Copyright Office. In the ruling, Judge Howell wrote, “Copyright has never stretched so far, however, as to protect works generated by new forms of technology operating absent any guiding human hand, as plaintiff urges here. Human authorship is a bedrock requirement of copyright.”
So, what does this mean in relation to the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes? One of the biggest reasons for both strikes is to establish a standard for the use of AI in the worlds of film, television and radio. Basically, both unions are fighting against the major studios and other entities to prevent a number of jobs from being replaced by AI, specifically writing jobs and jobs involving background actors. With this ruling, it could make it difficult for movies and TV shows to be copyrighted if they were mostly created via AI.
The full opinion from Judge Howell can be read here.