The United States Copyright Office (USCO) has issued a ruling on a previously copyrighted comic book that was created using “A.I. art,” and the results were a bit of a split decision. While the story for the comic and the specific compilation of the story with the images within the comic both remained under copyright, the copyright for the individual images within the comic book has been revoked. This ruling has set a precedent for how the USCO views A.I. art and copyrights involving its use.
The comic book in question is Zarya of the Dawn, created by Kris Kashtanova using the text-to-image engine Midjourney. While the comic book was initially copyrighted, the USCO discovered through Kashtanova’s social media postings that the images for the comic were created using A.I. art. The Office requested further information on the matter and tentatively determined it would revoke the copyright protection on the art in the comic at the end of last year. Kashtanova and her attorneys had a month to appeal the decision, but the final ruling has now been issued.
The USCO laid out its general position on copyrights involving A.I., stating that it will not register works produced by a machine or mere mechanical process that operates randomly or automatically without any creative input or intervention from a human author. In this specific instance, the USCO notes that Midjourney generates images in an unpredictable way, and users are not the “authors” for copyright purposes of the images the technology generates. The USCO believes that Kashtanova never had direct control over what images would be created, but rather they just picked through the randomly generated images until they found images they felt worked for the comic.
The argument by Kashtanova and her attorneys is that the USCO is being unfair in how it determines predictability. They argue that while Kashtanova might not have known specifically what Midjourney would create, they knew what it would draw in general terms, as the prompt inherently had some guidance involved. For instance, if the prompt is “yellow squirrel,” while you might not know what kind of image of a yellow squirrel Midjourney will create, you know that it will be a yellow squirrel, so that should qualify for the “modicum of creativity” that the USCO insists is required.
This ruling sets a precedent for how the USCO views A.I. art and copyrights involving its use. The future of USCO decisions regarding A.I. art is how much of a human element the USCO believes is involved in the creation of the images. The USCO believes that if there is no modicum of creativity involved in the creation of the image, it cannot be considered copyrightable. This ruling will likely have an impact on future cases involving A.I. art, as artists and creators will need to consider the level of control they have over the A.I. tools they use to create their works.
It is important to note that this ruling does not mean that A.I. art is not copyrightable. If there is a modicum of creativity involved in the creation of the image, it can still be considered copyrightable. This ruling simply sets a standard for what level of control an artist or creator must have over the A.I. tools they use in order for their work to be considered copyrightable. As technology continues to evolve, it will be interesting to see how the USCO’s position on A.I. art and copyrights involving its use develops.
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