Thaler is unlikely to get the “humanity” acceptance of the creative machine he wants from the Copyright Office. Nor should he — to fundamentally redefine our notion of what we mean to be human beings, which should not fall within the mandate of the Copyright Registry, an unelected and relatively unknown person appointed by the Librarian of Congress. Government officials. But Taylor and other generative artists deserve recognition and control, at least being able to register as authors of these works. As more and more artists turn to generative code and other algorithmic tools to make their work, we should consider extending protection to products of these methods.
To be sure, many artists in the generative art movement don’t care whether their work is eligible for copyright protection. However. “A lot of people from programming, coding or engineering backgrounds who are involved in the crypto space have this open-source spirit,” said Erick Calderon, founder of NFT platform Art Blocks. But Calderon said he’s seeing artists starting to think about protecting their Image, “The first time someone takes advantage of your work, you feel a little violated and you just sit there, ‘Oh man, it could have been nice they asked me.
Unauthorized use of an artist’s work for commercial purposes and involving large sums of money is unfair to many. Calderon, himself an artist, sees unauthorized appropriation as an economic and political issue. “If you open a shawarma restaurant and use Chromie Squiggle as a logo, I’d be concerned,” he said, referring to his signature generative project. “It wasn’t necessarily my artistic intention behind Squiggles.” For Calderon, it was also important to be able to prevent his work from being used for hate speech. Without copyright, when artists see their work being used to adorn the flags of organizations they deem ideologically objectionable, or when they hear their music used as the soundtrack to campaign rallies for candidates they despise , their recourse will be limited. Generative artists should also be able to take advantage of these protections. Their work may be computer-generated, but it’s not all generic—the best of them exhibit a unique style that can easily be associated with the artist by those in the know.
There are other, less practical reasons for giving copyright to generative artists. We create art for a variety of reasons, some trivial, some profound, some rational, some very irrational. Allowing artists to profit from their work through copyright is not because there is no art without cash incentives, but because money is the imperfect language the law uses to shape and communicate values. We want—or should want—to live in a society that values art and artists. Art that challenges our understanding of what it means to be human in fundamental, disturbing ways is exactly the kind of art our systems should endorse, or encourage if you will.
There is precedent that might be useful here. We have directors or their studios register their films with the Copyright Office. Even if a film brings together the work of many different contributors – including machines and sometimes animals – we are happy to assign copyright to the “mastermind” behind the film, the director who “oversees the entire production”, as in a case say it. There are huge important differences between what film directors and generative coders do, but our model for assigning copyright to the former can provide a useful template for properly evaluating what the latter do.
Some might argue that extending copyright protection to generative art will hinder creative production because it makes it too “easy” to create copyrighted works. A copyright troll with the right coding skills can generate a thousand images in seconds and then use them as lawsuit bait. But new technology always presents opportunities for trolls, and our vigilance against bad actors exploiting the system should not deter our efforts to design a copyright system that truly complies with its constitutional mandate.
Taylor’s views may seem extreme, but philosophers, environmentalists, and artists are increasingly adopting post-human perspectives to understand and navigate the crises of our time. Laws, including copyright law, should help facilitate these important investigations, not hinder them.
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