The Copyright Requirement of Human Authorship for Works Containing Artificial Intelligence-Generated Content

By Runhua Wang

from Volume 13 (2023-2024)

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The U.S. Copyright Office (the “Office”) unwaveringly refuses to register copyrights for artworks created by artificial intelligence (“AI”) systems. The prima facie reason is a lack of authorship because the U.S. copyright regime recognizes only humans as authors. However, the fundamental reason lies in the fact that legislators have not yet determined whether to grant copyrights to AI users. Despite adjustments made by the Office in response to the use of AI systems in creation, the agency’s implementation of copyright statutes suggests that it remains extremely conservative, rejecting any AI-generated content (“AIGC”) from copyright registration.

Will the copyright regime continue to exclude AIGC from copyright protection, and what are the probable consequences of this exclusion? This essay revisits the Office’s responses to copyright applicants regarding AIGC and elucidates the standards applied by the Office. Based on these standards and their underlying rules, the essay provides suggestions to the Office and predicts the probable future of the authorship requirement in the copyright law.