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Thaler v. Perlmutter

Court: United States District Court, District of Columbia

Citation: No. CV 22-1564 (BAH) (D.D.C. Aug. 18, 2023)

Date of Judgement: August 18, 2023

Judge: Beryl A. Howell, J.

Facts of the Case:

Plaintiff Stephen Thaler (“Thaler”) owned a computer system called “Creativity Machine.” The Creativity Machine having “Artificial Intelligence” (“AI”) generated a piece of visual art of its own accord titled “A Recent Entrance to Paradise” (the “Art”). Thaler sought to register the copyright for the Art at the U.S. Copyright Office (the “Copyright Office”), listing Creativity Machine as the author and explaining that the copyright should transfer to him as the owner of the machine.

The Copyright Office denied Thaler’s application as the Art “lack[ed] the human authorship necessary to support a copyright claim,” noting that copyright law only extends to works created by human beings. Thaler requested a reconsideration of his application, which was denied by the Copyright Office. Consequently, Thaler challenged its decision at the United States District Court, District of Columbia.


Whether the Copyright Office acted arbitrarily in denying Thaler’s application?

Laws Involved:

17 U.S.C.A. § 102(a): Subject Matter of Copyright

17 U.S.C.A. § 410(a): Registration of claim and issuance of certificate


The Court primarily analyzed the importance of copyright registration and emphasized that a copyright registration certificate allows the claimant to pursue infringement claims in court. Further, regarding the decision of the Copyright Office, the Court held that the Register did not err in denying the copyright registration application presented by Thaler as the United States copyright law protects only works of human creation.

The Court also discussed various instances where a computer/mechanical device is involved in the creation of a copyrighted work including cameras that create photographs. However, the Court concluded that the human involvement in, and ultimate creative control over the work at issue was key to the conclusion that the new type of work fell within the bounds of copyright.

Finally, the Court highlighted that if the right did not vest with the Creativity Machine in the first place, there could be no transfer of the copyright to Thaler.


This decision is in line with the U.S. Copyright Office’s Compendium which states that “the U.S. Copyright Office will register an original work of authorship, provided that the work was created by a human being.” In the era of AI-generated work being produced and sold, many criticized this decision. However, this decision emphasized the basic tenet of copyright authorship that would preserve man’s intellectual creation and creativity in the future.

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