According to a new policy statement from the U.S. Copyright Office, generative AI could be eligible for copyright protection.
But, there’s a catch: Proof of human authorship (a prerequisite reaffirmed by the Copyright Office a year ago) is still required, with applications evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
If the applicant can show that generative AI was used, but then a human did something to change or significantly tweak the output, then it arguably could be judged as eligible for copyright protection.
However, simply inputting a prompt into a generative AI tool, which then spits out a result, is not eligible.
Human, not generative AI, authorship is key to copyright …
Still, some legal experts say it is a good first step. “This Copyright Office statement is a signaling of an open mind to further evolution,” said Jim Flynn, managing director at law firm Epstein Becker Green. That being said, the Copyright Office operates within existing laws, he emphasized — “so any breakthrough change or any fuller dispensing with the human authorship requirement would probably take legislative action.”
The policy statement, he added, is more about presenting public guidance right now. But going forward, he said he is “heartened” by the Copyright Office saying that it plans a “widespread ‘initiative to delve into a wide range’ of the copyright issues surrounding AI-generated and AI-influenced works.”