U.S. Copyright Office Publishes Guidelines for Works Containing AI-Generated Material


The United States Copyright Office published comprehensive guidelines addressing the registration process for works containing material generated by Artificial Intelligence (AI). The growing use of AI in various creative fields has necessitated a clear legal framework to protect intellectual property rights. The guidelines offer clarification on copyright eligibility, authorship requirements, and the registration process for works that incorporate AI-generated material. Read Copyright Registration Guidance: Works Containing Material Generated by Artificial Intelligence published on March 16, 2023 via the Federal Register or our summary below.

I. Authorship and Human Contribution

A. Human authorship requirement

Under U.S. copyright law, only works created by human authors are eligible for copyright protection. AI-generated material alone is not considered a work of authorship and cannot be protected under copyright law. However, a work that combines human creativity with AI-generated material may be eligible for copyright protection if the human author’s contribution is significant and identifiable.

B. Assessing the human contribution

The guidelines emphasize that the human author’s contribution must be original and more than just superficial. The Copyright Office will examine the work and determine if the human contribution is substantial enough to warrant copyright protection.

II. Identifying AI-Generated Material

A. Disclosure requirement

When registering a work that contains AI-generated material, creators must disclose the use of AI in the registration application. This disclosure helps the Copyright Office in assessing the human author’s contribution to the work.

B. AI source material

The guidelines also require creators to provide information about the AI source material, including any underlying data sets and algorithms used to generate the AI content.

III. Derivative Works and AI-Generated Material

A. Permission from original copyright holders

If a work incorporates AI-generated material based on pre-existing copyrighted content, the creator must obtain permission from the original copyright holder(s) to use the material. This applies to works such as remixes, adaptations, or translations.

B. Original human authorship

In addition to obtaining permission, the new work must include a significant and original human authorship component to qualify for copyright protection. The human author’s contribution must be more than just trivial alterations or edits to the original work.

IV. Joint Authorship

A. Definition and requirements

Joint authorship occurs when two or more human authors collaborate on a work, and their contributions are inseparable. In cases where AI-generated material is used in a jointly authored work, each human author must contribute significantly to the final work.

B. AI-generated content and joint authorship

The guidelines clarify that AI-generated content cannot be considered a joint author. Only the human authors’ contributions will be taken into account when determining joint authorship.

V. Examples of AI-Generated Material

A. Music compositions

AI-generated music compositions are eligible for copyright protection if a human author has made substantial and original contributions. This may include creating melodies, harmonies, or arrangements that go beyond merely selecting AI-generated material.

B. Literary works

AI-generated literary works, such as stories, articles, or poems, may be protected if a human author has made significant and original contributions. Examples include developing the plot, characters, or themes, or making extensive edits to the AI-generated text.

C. Visual art

Visual artworks that incorporate AI-generated elements, such as paintings or photographs, can be protected if the human author’s contribution is significant and original. This may involve selecting, arranging, or modifying AI-generated elements to create a unique, cohesive work.


The U.S. Copyright Office’s guidelines provide a clear legal framework for creators who incorporate AI-generated material in their works. By emphasizing the importance of human authorship, the guidelines balance the need for intellectual property protection with the desire to foster innovation and collaboration in the creative industry. As AI technology continues to develop and influence various creative fields, these guidelines serve as a crucial reference for creators. For legal advice, schedule your free consultation with the intellectual property attorneys at Founders Legal.