The question of whether original artistic works created by Artificial Intelligence attract copyright protection differs from country to country.

The legal position in New Zealand is that copyright protection automatically arises once an original work is created by an author, so long as that work is fixed in a material form, such as a painting or a literary work.

The same result does not apply in the US. The US Copyright office recently declined a copyright application for an original work created by an AI system due to the lack of “required human authorship.” The applicant in this case had devised an AI system which authored an original two-dimensional painting without the applicant’s input.

Unlike in the US, an author in New Zealand does not need to register the work as New Zealand has no formal system for copyright registration.

It is likely that the original work declined copyright registration in the US would have copyright protection in New Zealand. This is because the Copyright Act 1994 accommodates original works that are computer-generated. Under s 5(2)(a), the author is “the person by whom the arrangements necessary for the creation of the work were undertaken.” This means that even if the original work is created by AI, the author will be the human that made the arrangements for the work to be created.

The remaining question is whether copyright protection in New Zealand will extend to situations where the programmer did not contribute to the work nor make any arrangements for the work to be created.


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Sarah Jamieson