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| 2 minutes read

AI Image Generators: Navigating the Copyright Waters

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been rapidly permeating various spheres of creativity, pushing the boundaries of what machines can accomplish. One of the realms where AI has made significant inroads is the art sector, specifically in the creation of digital art through AI image generators. These technologies can craft novel artworks and images by learning from existing artistic creations. However, this advancement has raised copyright law issues, with visual artists rallying against AI companies for allegedly repurposing their artworks without permission.

A notable case emerged where artist Kelly McKernan, along with two other plaintiffs, initiated a lawsuit against AI companies, accusing them of infringing on their copyright by utilizing their artworks to train AI image generators​​. While the artists clarified that they are not fundamentally opposed to AI, the crux of their contention lies in the unauthorized use of their creations, which, they argue, undermines their copyright protections.

The bone of contention extends to the core of copyright law – the concept of originality and human authorship. The U.S. legal framework posits that for a work to be eligible for copyright protection, it must bear a modicum of creativity and be the product of human endeavor. A recent court ruling and U.S. Copyright Office guidance have reiterated this stance by asserting that artworks generated by AI devoid of human input cannot be copyrighted under U.S. law​.

This dichotomy between human-created art and AI-generated art was further spotlighted when Getty, a colossal player in the photo industry, took a leading AI image-maker to court for what it termed as “brazen infringement” of its image collection. Getty accused the AI company of replicating its images on a large scale without authorization. However, in a turn of events, Getty later delved into the AI image creation market with a new service, thus joining the ranks of AI image makers​​.

The implications of this legal tussle extend beyond just the art and legal sectors. It beckons a broader societal discourse on the ethics of AI, the sanctity of human creativity, and how the law can evolve to encompass the rapidly morphing digital landscape. The debate also nudges towards a re-imagination of copyright law in the AI epoch. Can a middle ground be found that both fosters innovation and upholds the rights of original creators? Only time, coupled with judicious legal and technological deliberation, will tell.

As AI continues to blur the lines between man-made and machine-generated creations, the legal frameworks governing copyright will inevitably be thrust into the limelight, underlining the exigent need for a robust dialogue among stakeholders (encompassing artists, AI developers, legal experts, and policymakers) to foster a conducive environment for both human and machine creativity to flourish.

(P.S. The above image was created by DALL-E 3 within ChatGPT after I asked it to create an image to accompany this post. So you can use it if you'd like; it's not copyrighted.)


cybersecurity & privacy, copyright, artificial intelligence