AI-Generated Images Test Copyright Laws

Posted by Richard on February 7, 2023

Last year was huge for artificial intelligence as software giants like Microsoft and Adobe pushed generative AI tools to market and new cash-flush AI startups flooded the scene.
Within just a few months, anyone with an internet connection could use AI tools like Midjourney or Dall-E to create images from verbal prompts. These tools use machine learning algorithms to sort through large numbers of existing images to generate unique images to fit user prompts.

The resulting flood of AI-created images alarmed artists who wished to protect their ownership rights and livelihoods, and raised urgent questions about authorship and intellectual property. Who owns work that a machine creates? And how can human creators protect their work from being swept up into machine learning algorithms?

According to IP Watchdog, the United States Copyright Office (USCO) appears to be siding with humans for now. The USCO denied registration of an AI-generated image in early 2022, citing the Human Authorship requirement of the Copyright Act, which states that copyrighted work must be created with “substantial human involvement.” In October of last year, the USCO reversed a registration it had issued for a graphic novel that had previously made headlines as the first known instance of successful registration of AI-generated work. In a statement, the USCO explained that it would not knowingly issue registrations to works generated solely by AI and machine.

In the future, copyright laws must be updated to reflect degrees of human involvement, according to the Verge. AI companies are also likely to find ways to ensure that their AI models cannot facilitate copyright infringement.