Decision on copyright in a work created by artificial intelligence

Does a copyright to a work exist if it is created by artificial intelligence? Does copyright extend to the subject matter of the work itself, which a person submits to an AI and which then completely fabricates the artwork? The Municipal Court of Prague issued a decision on this matter in the autumn 2023.

The facts of the case

The AI created a graphic based on the plaintiff's following brief: 'Create an image of two parties signing a business contract in a conference room or in a law firm's office in Prague. Show only their hands." This graphic was later published on the defendant's website. In response, the graphic artist asked the defendant to remove the work from the site, but without success. He therefore decided to take legal action in order to claim the removal of the work and, in addition, to prevent any infringement of his copyright.

To do so, however, it was first necessary to determine the authorship as such. Since, in order to interfere in the rights of an individual, it must first be determined to whom authorship belongs.

Legal question

According to Section 2(1) of the copyright act, the subject of copyright is only a work of authorship, that is to say: "a literary work, artistic work or scientific work which is the unique result of the creative activity of the author (natural person) and is expressed in any objectively perceptible form, including electronic form, permanently or temporarily, regardless of its scope, purpose or meaning." A work of authorship must be original in the sense that it is the author's own intellectual creation.

As a matter of law, the court evaluated the authorship determination as follows:

Artificial intelligence per se cannot be an author due to the non-compliance with the conditions of Section 5 of the copyright act, where only a natural person can be an author, which artificial intelligence certainly is not.

The plaintiff claimed in the proceedings that the image in question was created by an artificial intelligence based on his specific assignment and therefore he is the author of the image created by the artificial intelligence. According to Section 2(6) of the copyright act, the subject matter commissioned by a natural person (the plaintiff) is not in itself a work. Neither is a technique, method, discovery, scientific theory, mathematical or similar formula, statistical graph or similar subject matter in itself.

Court decision

Here we return to the initial question: is the person who gives the AI the idea for the artwork (who then completes it) the author? The court found that an image created by an AI does not constitute a work of authorship because it is not the unique result of the creative activity of a natural person - the author. The plaintiff himself did not personally create the work, it was created by artificial intelligence. As for the assignment itself, which was allegedly meant to be the source of the later image created by the AI, it is only the subject matter of the work or the idea which is not in itself a work of authorship.

Who, then, is entitled to copyright if not the plaintiff? Copyright is a right that can only belong to a natural person. If the image in question was not created by the plaintiff personally, but was created by an artificial intelligence, it cannot by definition be a copyrightable work - because the AI is not a natural person. The image in question is not a work of authorship of anyone even in principle, let alone a work of authorship by the plaintiff himself. Since the plaintiff is not the author of the work, he cannot logically seek its removal from the defendant's website.