US officials published a new policy on Thursday announcing that if a creator can prove their significant contribution to an AI-generated art piece, that piece might qualify to be copyrighted.
Lately, the USCO has been receiving tons of applications to get AI art registered.
AI-generated content and its popularity have been at an all-time high these days. More and more artists are turning to AI tools that quickly generate art with just a few text prompts from the creator.
Now the real question is, can an art piece that’s been created by a machine that is available to thousands of other users be copyrightable?
What’s the current copyright law?
Any form of art created by an AI tool, machine, or software cannot be copyrighted as of now.
The current US laws on intellectual property state that artwork or any type of creation can only be copyrighted if it’s 100% original and made by an individual.
So, for example, if an author creates stories, poems, or art using tools like DALL-E or GPT-4, the product will not be protected by intellectual property rights. After all, the only noticeable contribution made by the creator in these cases is the text prompt.
But since digital art has been growing massively in terms of popularity, USCO has decided to make a special provision for such artists. According to the new policy change, if an artist works on the final product given by the tool and makes a significant contribution, such as there is a fine line of differences between the two pieces, it might be considered for copyright.
What Prompted the change?
Each art piece will be carefully evaluated to check the extent of the contribution made by the creator that goes beyond what the tool created.
The decision comes after a recent copyright claim for an ebook. The graphic novel consisted of pictures made using Midjourney. So although the text could be copyrighted (since it was an original creation of the author), the images did not receive copyright protection.
The decision on whether AI-generated art qualifies for copyright or not lies solely with the Office.
For example, if an artist created digital art using tools like Midjourney and then used photoshop to make considerable changes by adding new elements, it could be considered unique art and be up for a copyright claim.
However, if the artist simply adds a filter or changes the brightness, there won’t be anything unique for the artist to claim authority over.
The USCO also adds that they will judge if the final art is just the tool’s contribution or the actual idea of the artist that the machine simply gave form.
Since there’s no set rule to assess situations like these, it will be treated on a case-by-case basis.
For now, Shira Perlmutter, who is the Register of Copyrights and Director of the U.S. Copyright Office, advised all artists to clearly state what AI tool they have used, how it has contributed to the art, and which part of the art has been done by the artist themselves before filing a copyright claim. If any of this information is not disclosed or is incorrect, their copyright certificate will be canceled right away.