On October 19, 2023, the U.S. Copyright Office announced in the Federal Register that it will consider a proposed exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s (“DMCA”) anti-circumvention provisions which prohibit the circumvention of any technological measures used to prevent unauthorized access to copyrighted works. The exemption would allow those researching bias in artificial intelligence (“AI”) to bypass any technological measures that limit the use of copyrighted generative AI models.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia recently affirmed a decision by the U.S. Copyright Office (“USCO”) in which the USCO denied an application to register a work authored entirely by an artificial intelligence program. The case, Thaler v. Perlmutter, challenging U.S. copyright law’s human authorship requirement, is the first of its kind in the United States, but will definitely not be the last, as questions regarding the originality and protectability of generative AI (“GenAI”) created works continue to arise. The court in Thaler focused on the fact that the work at issue had no human authorship, setting a clear rule for one end of the spectrum. As the court recognized, the more difficult questions that will need to be addressed include how much human input is required to qualify the user as the creator of a work such that it is eligible for copyright protection.
On June 6, 2023, New York Senate Bill S5640 / Assembly Bill A5295 (“S5640”) won near-unanimous final passage in the New York Assembly with a 147-1 vote, after being passed unanimously by the Senate the previous week. If signed into law by Governor Hochul, the legislation would, effective immediately, add to New York labor law a new section 203-f that renders unenforceable provisions in employee agreements that require employees to assign certain inventions developed using the employee’s own property and time.
On 16 March 2023, the US Copyright Office (“USCO”) published guidance on the registration of works containing AI-generated content. The USCO’s policy statement was released against the backdrop of the proliferation of generative AI tools which are able to create content based on user prompts. The USCO ultimately concluded that the “authorship” requirement of US copyright law refers to “human authorship” (in line with prior case law) and appears to reject the extension of copyright to works generated with the aid of AI technology outside of the user’s control.