Although artwork created by Artificial Intelligence (AI) has existed and tinkered with for years, AI art has exploded into the mainstream within the past two years as tools become increasingly more accessible to people. Stability AI released their open source Stability Diffusion tool, OpenAI introduced the world DALL-E and ChatGPT, and Midjourney, inc. has released their image-generator program in open beta with hopes of running it through a web browser.
While these cutting-edge programs are made to help people create conceptual ideas for artwork and other related media, there has been a burning legal question surrounding these tools.
Do copyright laws in the United States protect AI art?
In March, the US Copyright Office issued a policy statement to clarify works containing AI-generated material.
“These technologies, often described as ‘generative AI,’ raise questions about whether the material they produce is protected by copyright, whether worlds consisting of both human authored and AI-generated material,” the statement said.
The US Copyright Office also stated that general guidance is needed when registering works containing AI-generated content, describing how the office utilizes the “human authorship” requirement of copyright law for applicants.
“It has launched an agency-wide initiative to delve into a wide range of these issues,” the statement said. “Among other things, the Office intends to publish a notice of inquiry later this year seeking public input on additional legal and policy topics, including how the law should apply to the use of copyrighted works in AI training and the resulting treatment of outputs.”
The statement comes after Kris Kashtanova was granted copyright for her graphic novel, Zarya of the Dawn, which contained AI-generated images last year. The decision was later put under review when it was revealed the photos were created through Midjourney.
Last month, the Copyright Office canceled the original certification of the graphic novel with the verdict that some aspects of the work, such as the writing, would be protected under copyright law. The images in the book would not be certified as only human-made works are only eligible for copyright.
According to the U.S. Copyright Office, copyright can be applied to works considered original “when a human author independently creates them and have a minimal degree in creativity.”
Another debate that comes to fruition is whether or not artists’ copyrights protect their work from being used in these AI systems.
In January, a group of visual artists sued Stability AI Ltd, Midjourney Inc, and DeviantArt Inc for copyright infringement as their software copies vast numbers of copyrighted images to generate an artist's style without their consent. Sarah Andersen, Kelly McKernan, and Karla Ortiz claim that the companies are misusing works and violating copyright laws to train their AI systems.
However, Midjourney claimed that the algorithm only works as training data and generates artwork that fails to reach the infringement criteria as it does not “identify a single work by any plaintiff.” Online artist community site DeviantArt stated in its filing to rule out the case that it was not liable for the alleged misconduct of AI companies.
So what is AI?
These AI-generated tools are…tools. They are primarily created to accomplish repetitive tasks or provide concepts for developing ideas. AI-generated content on its looks…is like a living nightmare, as generative AI only makes it. Adult Swim, Cartoon Network’s adult programming block, showcased an AI-generated animated short, proving how off-putting it currently looks.
They are only created to imitate infinite resources across the Internet and generate buzz in our society since we can claim, “Wow, look at what my computer created.”
These tools can help someone generate designs for photoshops, ideas for film and television visuals, and test out possible kinks in coding or other repetitive tasks for our programs. Theoretically, it could evolve into creating original works like humans, but the technology is still in its infancy.
However, the fear of generative AI is less about the technological advances it has made over the years; it’s more about the people behind the screen and how we decide to use it.
It’s worth considering companies the big “what-if” of replacing artists with AI since it would be considerably cheaper working with technology than paying someone a living wage for content. Big corporations could, in theory, cut out creators such as artists, designers, photographers, and writers to produce content in-house. It could also change the definition of original work as the line blur between human-man or AI-generated work. Even in this scenario, AI would still need a human touch.
In a recent study by the University of Pennsylvania and OpenAI, AI works best in a collaborative environment with human workers rather than eliminating the workforce.
As generative AI still has ways to go, it has yet to reach a stage where the creativity of the human mind is considered archaic and out-of-date.
Edited by: Whitney Edna Ibe
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