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No copyright for AI creations in the Czech Republic: what does this mean for the rest of Europe?

In a recent court case in the Czech Republic, the court ruled that an AI-generated work can never be protected by copyright. The case revolved around the question whether an image created by AI could be considered a copyrighted work and, if so, whether that person could be considered the author of that work.

In this case, the applicant sued a law firm, asking them to acknowledge his authorship regarding an image he had created using artificial intelligence. The image in question shows two hands signing a business contract and was published on the law firm's website without his permission.

The assignment, also called the prompt, from the applicant was to: "create a visual representation of two parties signing a business contract in a formal setting, such as a meeting room or an office of a law firm in Prague. Just show the hands".

The applicant argued that the image was created by AI based on this specific prompt, making him the author of this image. However, he failed to prove that he was indeed the one who had given AI instructions. The court held that his personal statement had not convincingly demonstrated that he was the "author" in the traditional sense. The plaintiff did not create the work himself, it was created with the help of artificial intelligence and it cannot be established on the basis of which specific instruction, the judge said.

The judge went further and clarified his position around this issue:

"Copyright is an absolute right that belongs to an individual. If the image in question was not created by the applicant personally, but by an artificial intelligence, it cannot, by definition, be a copyrighted work."

Under copyright law, only a natural person can be the author of a work, and artificial intelligence "certainly is not", the judge explained. Rather, the applicant's prompt, which was supposed to be the basis for the image, was merely a suggestion for the work or possibly an idea, which in themselves are not copyrighted works under the Copyright Act. So not only is the image not the applicant's copyrighted work, it is not a copyrighted work at all.

This ruling highlights the complexity surrounding copyright and AI. It is possible that this case would have turned out differently if the prompt was more specific, e.g. about the use of colour, atmosphere and other details, and the applicant had provided objective evidence to show that it had given the instruction to the AI system. Meanwhile, with the latest premium version of ChatGPT, it is possible to customise specific parts of the images generated by DALL·E and generate even more specific prompts, potentially making such an image more likely to be seen as a copyrighted work. 

Since copyright law is harmonised in the European Union, it is intended to be applied uniformly in all member states. It should therefore be interpreted the same in every member state. The question now is whether judges in other countries, such as the Netherlands, will adopt the Prague court's reasoning. We will keep you updated on these developments!

In the meantime, if you have any questions about AI and copyright, please contact us via info@legalair.nl or wijst@bg.legal