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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Perry, Esq.

US Copyright Office Rejects "AI" Authored Work for Copyright Registration

I routinely get this question: can machines or robots be considered authors? The general answer I’ve given is that no, only humans can be considered authors under US copyright law. Well, the Review Board at the US Copyright Office has weighed in. At issue was a copyright registration application by Steven Thaler that claimed the copyrighted work was created by a computer algorithm on a machine. Thaler's application listed himself as the copyright claimant and the algorithm as a work-for-hire. In 2019, the US Copyright Office rejected his application for lack of a human author. Thaler appealed for reconsideration, arguing that refusing registration was unconstitutional and not supported by precedent. He also argued that denying his registration would cause individuals to claim they authored works that were really created by AI.

The Board affirmed its decision that human authorship is a prerequisite for copyright registration. The Board also rejected Thaler’s work for hire argument, stating that a work for hire requires either an employee relationship or a binding written instrument, which are inapplicable to machines. Additionally, the Board stated that works for hire only concern themselves with the identity of the copyright owner and not the “author” of the copyrighted work.


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