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Our Take on AI

| 2 minutes read

The US Copyright Office Takes a Cautious Step Forward on AI-Assisted Works

In a noteworthy development, the US Copyright Office has granted limited copyright protection to Elisa Shupe, a retired US Army veteran, for her book "AI Machinations: Tangled Webs and Typed Words," which she wrote with the assistance of a publicly available AI chatbot. This decision marks a significant milestone in the ongoing debate surrounding the copyrightability of works created with the help of artificial intelligence (AI) tools.

The Copyright Office's Evolving Stance on AI-Generated Content

Shupe's initial application for copyright registration, filed in October 2023, was rejected by the Copyright Office. However, after appealing with the help of the Brooklyn Law Incubator and Policy Clinic, Shupe was granted copyright registration for the "selection, coordination, and arrangement" of the AI-generated text in her book. This decision was backdated to her original application date.

The Copyright Office did not grant copyright protection to the actual text generated by the AI. Instead, Shupe's copyright extends only to the way she compiled and arranged the AI-generated content. This type of "thin copyright" prevents others from duplicating the work in its entirety but does not prevent the reuse or rearrangement of the AI-generated text itself.

Applying Copyright Office Guidance for AI

The Copyright Office's decision in Shupe's case aligns with its existing guidance on AI-assisted works. In March 2023, the Copyright Office issued a statement clarifying that it would not register works produced by AI without creative input or intervention from a human author. The statement emphasized that copyright protection requires human authorship and that works generated solely by AI do not qualify for registration.

However, the Copyright Office also acknowledged that works containing AI-generated material may be registrable if there is sufficient human authorship involved, such as creative selection, arrangement, or modification of the AI-generated content. This position was further reinforced by the Copyright Office's decision in the case of Kris Kashtanova's graphic novel "Zarya and the Dawn," which incorporated AI-generated images created with Midjourney. In February 2023, Kashtanova was granted copyright for the selection and arrangement of the AI-generated images, even though the images themselves were not copyrightable.

The Road Ahead

Shupe's case may serve as a blueprint for creators who wish to incorporate AI-generated content into their works while still obtaining some level of copyright protection. It demonstrates that the Copyright Office is willing to recognize the human authorship involved in curating and arranging AI-generated material, even if the AI output itself is not copyrightable.

However, the limited nature of the protection granted to Shupe also highlights the ongoing challenges and uncertainties surrounding AI and copyright law. Some argue that AI-generated content should be fully copyrightable, while others maintain that AI is merely a tool assisting human authors, and its output should not be eligible for copyright protection.


The Copyright Office's decision in Elisa Shupe's case represents a cautious step forward in recognizing the role of human authorship in AI-assisted works. While it does not grant full copyright protection to AI-generated content, it acknowledges the creative effort involved in selecting, coordinating, and arranging such material. As the debate surrounding AI and copyright law continues to evolve, this decision provides valuable insight into the Copyright Office's current thinking and sets the stage for further developments in this rapidly changing landscape.

Its registration provides a glimpse of how the USCO is grappling with artificial intelligence, especially as more people incorporate AI tools into creative work. It is among the first creative works to receive a copyright for the arrangement of AI-generated text.