Are computer generated artworks protected by copyright?

Image of computer generated Rembrandt, created by J. Walter Thompson Amsterdam, 2017.

Computer generated Rembrandt, created by J. Walter Thompson Amsterdam, 2017.

The latest artwork to prompt this question is a portrait which has been created by a computer in the style of Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn. The work was created after a computer spent months analysing the technical and aesthetic elements of Rembrandt’s works using machine learning.  The resulting portrait was of a male aged between 30-40, with facial hair, facing towards the right, and wearing dark clothes with a white collar. Computer algorithms and a 3-D printer then created the artwork based on the styles and recurring patterns found in previous Rembrandt portraits. The 3-D printer was even able to emulate the brush strokes and height of the paint to produce a convincing Rambrandt.

But where does this leave us in terms of copyright?  Thankfully under UK law this type of work is protected by copyright. The law states that “in the case of a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work which is computer-generated, the author shall be taken to be the person by whom the arrangements necessary for the creation of the work are undertaken”, (Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, Part 1, Section 9, [3]).

However, legislation in other countries do not necessarily provide the same level of copyright protection.  If you are considering producing literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works which are computer generated and you are working collaboratively with colleagues outside of the UK. Then make sure any works which are created are made in the UK to qualify for copyright protection.

To read more about this story please the original article in The Conversation.

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