Who owns the copyright on art created by Artificial intelligence?

Who owns the copyright on art created by Artificial intelligence?

A copyright is a legal right granted to a creator of a new work.  A creator can be an author, painter, musician, singer, sculptor, poet, or any other type of person that creates original works.  A work is the product of a creator, it can be a book, photograph, song, movie, poem, music or anything else which can be stored.  Copyright law grants creators the right to exclude others from distributing, selling, publicly displaying, or making copies of the creator’s works. Copyright law in the United States is slow moving.  When sound recordings were first introduced it took a number of decades before they were considered material which could be copyrighted.  Copyright law is still confused with how to deal with the internet.  On the horizon is a new technology, artificial intelligence.  Artificial intelligence is an intelligence displayed by machines.   Artificial intelligence has been science fiction for a long time.  But with new advances in technology it is only matter of time before machines will begin making creative works or art.  Philosophers and academics can debate how creative an Artificial intelligence needs to be for it to be worthy of a copyright.  In this article we will discuss Who owns the copyright on art created by Artificial intelligence?

Use the following hypothetical situation:  A computer programmer creates an artificial intelligence program called Ultimate Song.   Ultimate Song is trained by feeding it all the music for the past 100 years along with statistics on which songs generated the most royalty revenue.  Ultimate Song then begins creating its own musical works, which are completely unique. The music produced by Ultimate Song is a commercial success and pirated copies of Ultimate Song’s music is everywhere.

This question may seem to have an obvious answer: Who ever wrote the programming which the Artificial intelligence uses, holds the copyright to creations of the Artificial intelligence.  This answer is not supported by United States Copyright Office’s official position on what is worthy of copyright protection.

The Compendium of United States Copyright Office Practices, section 306 states that The United States Copyright Office will not register a copyright on a work unless the creator is a human being.  The copyright law only protects “the fruits of intellectual labor” that “are founded in the creative powers of the mind.” Trade-Mark Cases, 100 U.S. 82, 94 (1879). Because copyright law is limited
to “original intellectual conceptions of the author,” the Office will refuse to register a claim if it determines that a human being did not create the work. Burrow-Giles Lithographic Co. v. Sarony, 111 U.S. 53, 58 (1884).  Section 313.2 states that the United States Copyright Office will not register works produced by nature, animals, or plants.  Also the United States Copyright Office will not register works produced by a machine or mere mechanical process that operates randomly or automatically without any creative input or intervention from a human author.

Based on the Compendium of United States Copyright Office Practices, it appears that the Copyright Office will not register a copyright on a work created by an Artificial Intelligence.  But this is a practice of the United States Copyright Office not a law or regulation.  Artificial intelligence is not a mere mechanical process that operates randomly or without creative input.  Absent a law or regulation stating that works created by Artificial intelligence are not allowed to be granted copyright protection, it would appear that the United States Copyright Office could grant copyright on a work made by Artificial intelligence.

This is a complicated subject so we will continue the discussion in a future blog post.

If you have questions or comments about this article please email the authors of this blog at: admin@uspatentlaw.cn