Generative artificial intelligence has gained significant attention in recent news, with the issue of intellectual property rights for such products taking center stage in ongoing debates.
In France, products generated by artificial intelligence (hereinafter referred to as “AI”) do not currently enjoy copyright protection. Furthermore, patents extend only to the algorithms that power these AI systems, rather than the products themselves.
A Landmark U.S. Court Ruling
On August 18, U.S. Federal Judge Beryl Howell issued a landmark decision in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, stating that copyright law does not extend protection to writings, films, music, or images generated solely by artificial intelligence (AI) tools, “in the absence of any human intervention in the creation of the work.”
The lawsuit was initiated by the CEO of Imagination Engines, who is also the developer of a generative AI model known as the “Creativity Machine.” The case revolved around the refusal to grant copyright protection for an image autonomously generated by this AI system. The image, titled “A Recent Entrance to Paradise,” serves as an illustration for this article.
The central issue at hand was the degree of human involvement required for a product generated by AI to qualify for copyright protection. According to the current legal stance, simply providing a prompt to the AI system is not considered sufficient human intervention to warrant such protection.
However, the situation differs when it comes to works created by humans utilizing AI tools. In these instances, the creations may indeed be eligible for intellectual property protection.
The Criterion of Human Authorship
Justice Beryl Howell stipulates that a tangible connection between human creativity and the artistic expression is essential for claiming copyright protection. In the absence of this link, what is known in French law as the “patte de l’auteur”—the discernible touch or signature of the artist—cannot be established. Thus, human authorship remains a cornerstone for eligibility under copyright law.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Copyright Office does acknowledge the potential for some AI-generated content to qualify for copyright protection. This is contingent upon the individual demonstrating that human intervention played a pivotal role in the creative process.
This U.S. legal standpoint aligns with prevailing international perspectives. To date, China is the only country that has officially extended copyright protection to AI-generated works.
The threat of the AI
Artificial Intelligence (AI) presents an increasing challenge to careers that are focused on the production of creative works, including but not limited to dubbing artists, translators, scriptwriters, and even performers like actors and singers. As technology advances, there’s a growing concern that these professions could eventually be supplanted by AI systems. This underscores the need for adaptable legal safeguards that can evolve in step with technological innovation.
The question then arises: Is extending copyright protection to AI-generated works a step in the right direction?
While it’s imperative for legal frameworks to adapt to technological advancements, a carefully calibrated balance must be struck. The extension of copyright protections to AI-generated works isn’t a goal in itself but opens the door to uncharted developments with unknown implications
Public discourse on this topic remains robust, and intellectual property law—like law in general—is in a state of flux to accommodate emerging technologies. Copyright law was originally designed to incentivize human innovation; therefore, a degree of protection for AI-assisted works may be justifiable.
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