As a layman interested in the law, I'm facing a bit of a conundrum posed by my cousin.

Here are the facts:

  1. A records company, M Ltd, has created (e.g. written code for, trained etc.) an AI that can generate music. The AI generates music when it is prompted. It can be prompted by either uttering a few random words into a microphone, or by verbally providing it with a cluster of notes (they could be random or have a deliberate structure).
  2. Person YT, an employee of M Ltd, wishes to try the AI out. He has consented to M Ltd's IP policy, which takes the position of the law on who holds the copyright to any copyrightable work created (i.e. the employer holds the copyright over the copyrightable work its employees create).
  3. Person YT utters a few random words and provides the AI with a random arrangement of notes.
  4. The AI generates a song.

I have two questions:

  1. With the fact pattern I have presented, can either the AI or M Ltd hold the copyright to the song the AI has generated?
  2. If Person YT only uttered random words, or only provided the AI with random notes, would it make a difference?

I am mostly indifferent as to jurisdiction. I only have a slight preference for either the EU, UK or US.

Thanks in advance.

  • 1
    The AI can't own anything. The rest of the question is probably too unsettled to be answered before a court rules on it.
    – phoog
    Apr 30, 2023 at 14:06
  • @phoog but for the US, where the answer is below.
    – Trish
    Apr 30, 2023 at 15:09

1 Answer 1


Nobody in the

The AI generaged the music and the contribution of the human does not qualify for authirship, therefore it is uncopyrightable.

II. The Human Authorship Requirement

In the Office's view, it is well-established that copyright can protect only material that is the product of human creativity. Most fundamentally, the term “author,” which is used in both the Constitution and the Copyright Act, excludes non-humans. The Office's registration policies and regulations reflect statutory and judicial guidance on this issue.


III. The Office's Application of the Human Authorship Requirement

It begins by asking “whether the `work' is basically one of human authorship, with the computer [or other device] merely being an assisting instrument, or whether the traditional elements of authorship in the work (literary, artistic, or musical expression or elements of selection, arrangement, etc.) were actually conceived and executed not by man but by a machine.” [23] In the case of works containing AI-generated material, the Office will consider whether the AI contributions are the result of “mechanical reproduction” or instead of an author's “own original mental conception, to which [the author] gave visible form.” [24]


When an AI technology determines the expressive elements of its output, the generated material is not the product of human authorship.[31] As a result, that material is not protected by copyright and must be disclaimed in a registration application.[32]

Since there is no copyright, the question who owns it is moot.

  • Who is "the office"?
    – phoog
    Apr 30, 2023 at 21:18
  • @phoog the US Copyright Office
    – Dale M
    Apr 30, 2023 at 23:03
  • 1
    This answer correctly states the law as it presently stands in the US and most other jurisdictions. Machine generated content does not have copyright protection - content generated by humans with machine assistance does. Where that line is has to be assessed on a case by case basis. As posed by the OP, “ a few random words” is not copyrightable so an AI song generated from them isn’t either.
    – Dale M
    Apr 30, 2023 at 23:05
  • 1
    @phoog Strictly speaking, the U.S. Copyright Registrar, who is an official attached to the U.S. Library of Congress.
    – ohwilleke
    Jun 1, 2023 at 3:08

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