CIPPIC has filed an application in the Federal Court to expunge or rectify a copyright registration that holds out an artificial intelligence ("AI") program as an author under Canadian copyright law.

In Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) v. Sahni, CIPPIC asks the Federal Court of Canada to either rectify the registration to delete any mention of AI authorship, or expunge the registration entirely for lack of copyright.

At the heart of this dispute is "Suryast," an AI-generated image, that raises fundamental questions about authorship, originality, and AI's place in creative endeavors. Ankit Sahni, an intellectual property lawyer from New Delhi, claims that an image, "Suryast", constructed using the "RAGHAV AI Painting App", enjoys copyright and claims co-authorship along with the AI. The Suryast image is an adaptation of a sunset photograph, taken by Sahni, but distorted by the AI according to the style of Vincent van Gogh's "The Starry Night."

CIPPIC's application raises several issues.

Originality and Human Authorship: CIPPIC contends that "Suryast" doesn't meet the originality criterion for copyright, given its merely mechanical creation process. Mr Sahni may have copyright in his original photograph, but contributed no skill or judgement to its adaptation by the AI.

AI as an Author: The case challenges whether AI can ever be an author under Canadian law. Recognizing AI as an author could drastically alter established copyright norms.

CIPO’s Registration Process: The Canadian Intellectual Prpperty Office's unverified, automated copyright registration process allowed Sahni to register the AI as an author without any review. A copyright registration has substantive effect - even in this case, the registration shifts the burden to CIPPIC to disprove subsistence of copyright and to prove that an author must be a human.

The matter has just been filed. A hearing on the merits remains months in the future.

Broader Impact

This case could reshape copyright law significantly. A decision in favor of AI authorship with only minimal human involvement would grant rights in works that only marginally resemble the kinds of human activities that justify copyright. The case underscores the need for copyright rules that address AI's role in creativity, and will offer guidance on the kinds of AI-produced creations that may enjoy rights under the Copyright Act.