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A Czech court rules on copyright to a work generated by AI

15.04.2024 | EN, News EN

A Czech court rules on copyright to a work generated by AI

15.04.2024

Artificial intelligence is becoming more and more prominent in the sector of music, literature and, as a matter of fact, in most fields that require a creative approach to any task or issue so far reserved exclusively for humans. It was therefore only a matter of time until cases concerning the question of copyright ownership of an AI-generated work came to court.

One of the first such cases took place in the United States, where an action was brought against the US Copyright Office by Stephen Thaler. According to plaintiff, the office wrongly denied him copyright to an image generated by artificial intelligence. However, in a judgment of 18 August 2023, the US court indicated that artworks generated using artificial intelligence cannot be protected, as human authorship is the primary ground for copyright.

Recently, a similar dispute also took place in Europe, in the Czech Republic.

Facts of the case

A dispute arose when a company in Prague contracted with an individual to create an illustration depicting a situation in which two people conclude a contract in an office room. The graphics contractor decided that the illustration will be created with the use of DALL-E, a programme for generating images based on an invented textual description. The generated graphic was then given to the company, which placed it on its website without Plaintiff’s consent. As a result, the person who caused the graphics to be generated by AI brought an action to order the Defendant to remove the graphics from the website, as well as to prohibit any action that would jeopardise or infringe its copyright. The Defendant company did not acknowledge Plaintiff’s claims and requested to dismiss the lawsuit. In its view, the image created by the AI does not constitute a work of authorship within the meaning of Article 2 of the Czech Copyright Act.

Judgment of the court

At a hearing held, the court instructed the Plaintiff to prove how the graphics in question were created. In particular, Plaintiff should indicate on the basis of which exact command and from which person the artificial intelligence created the graphic. However, Plaintiff indicated that, apart from his statement, he had no other evidence.

Then, the Court pointed out that according to Article 2(1) of the Czech Copyright Act, the subject matter of copyright is, i.a., a literary, artistic, or scientific work that is the intrinsic result of the author’s creative activity (point 7 of the judgment). At the same time, it underlined that, according to the Czech Copyright Act, ideas, procedures, principles, methods, discoveries, scientific theories, or mathematical formulas cannot constitute a work (point 8 of the judgment).

While assessing the authorship of the generated graphics, the court indicated that the artificial intelligence could not be an author due to the failure to meet the statutory premise that only a natural person can be an author. The Czech court also pointed out that Plaintiff failed to provide relevant evidence to prove that the graphic was generated on the basis of his command placed in a text field in the DALL-E program. Consequently, the AI-generated graphic is also not a unique result of an individual’s creative activity. It is also worth noting that in the court’s view – the command constituting the textual description on the basis of which the AI generates the image does not constitute a work either. This is because the command itself, which is the basis for the generation of the graphic, is an idea that is not subject to copyright protection.   

Summary

As no appeal was filed by either party, the judgment is now final. The court’s reasoning shows that the Plaintiff failed to carry the burden of proof and did not prove that the graphic was created on the basis of a command he created. Furthermore, according to the court, an artificial intelligence cannot create a work that is the unique result of an individual’s creative activity. This view resulted in the final decision that works generated by AI are not protected by copyright law. 

The Czech court’s ruling is one of the first judgements in Europe concerning a work generated by artificial intelligence. By denying the possibility to grant copyright to artificial intelligence, the Czech court is in line with previous CJEU case law. According to it, the originality of a work must be a reflection of the author’s own intellectual creation, and, moreover, the author must externalise his creative abilities by putting his personal stamp on the work (see, i.a., CJEU judgments in Cases C-145/10 and C-429/08).

The Czech court’s judgment of 11 October 2023 is available at: https://justice.cz/documents/14569/1865919/10C_13_2023_10/108cad3e-d9e8-454f-bfacd58e1253c83a

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