Graphic novel with AI-generated art gets unprecedented copyright
An AI system cannot currently get a copyright, but what about those who collaborate with it?
Published Sep 27, 2022 10: 30 AM
The ethics on AI art keeps getting murkier and murkier. Kris Kashtanova
As interest grows for AI-assisted artwork programs like DALL-E, so do the controversies surrounding their legal and ethical implications. This nebulous area may be at its most difficult yet. As Ars Technica and elsewhere reported yesterday, New York-based artist Kris Kashtanova claims to be the first known artist to receive a US copyright registration for Zayra of the Dawn, a graphic novel featuring latent diffusion AI-assisted artwork.
“I was open how it was made and put Midjourney on the cover page. It was not altered in any way. Just the way you saw it here,” Kashtanova wrote in an announcement posted to Instagram last week. “I tried to prove that we own copyright when we create something using AI. It was registered as visual arts work. It is a visual arts work.
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Earlier this year, the US Copyright Office ruled against awarding copyrights to AI systems themselves. “The courts have been consistent in finding that non-human expression is ineligible for copyright protection,” the Office reasoned in February, citing previous cases involving attempts to copyright based on “divine inspiration,” as well as that time someone tried to secure copyright protection for a monkey selfie.
Right now, there is a big distinction between granting copyright solely to an AI learning system and granting the same licensing rights to a human who collaborated with an AI learning system on their project, as is the case right now with Kashtanova’s Zayra of the Dawn. That said, critics have already noted that the graphic novel’s title character bears more than a passing resemblance to the actress, Zendaya. Generative image AI programs often use celebrities as human references because there are so many photos of them. This is often done without the consent or knowledge of the celebrities.
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On September 21, Getty Images CEO Craig Peters announced that the company would no longer accept AI-generative artwork into its catalogue, citing concerns over copyright legality and privacy. “There are real concerns with respect to the copyright of outputs from these models and unaddressed rights issues with respect to the imagery, the image metadata and those individuals contained within the imagery,” Peters told The Verge at the time.