Recently, the US Copyright Office (USCO) has released new guidance stating that any images produced by current generative AI models, such as Midjourney or Stable Diffusion, cannot be copyrighted in the US. According to the USCO, when a person gives a text prompt to an AI model and it produces a complex written, visual, or musical work in response, the traditional elements of authorship are determined and executed by the technology rather than the human user.
The USCO has likened the act of giving a text prompt to an AI model to a buyer providing directions to a commissioned artist. The prompts only serve to identify what the prompter wishes to have depicted, but the machine ultimately determines how those instructions are implemented in its output. Essentially, the human user is simply providing an initial idea or concept, but AI technology is responsible for executing that concept and creating the final product.
This decision by the USCO raises interesting questions about the role of AI in creative processes and how we define authorship. It highlights the fact that AI models are increasingly capable of producing high-quality and original works that can rival those created by human artists, but it also emphasizes that the AI is ultimately a tool created and controlled by humans.
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The USCO’s decision also has practical implications for businesses and individuals who use AI-generated content. Since these works cannot be copyrighted, they can be used and reproduced freely without the need for permission from the AI model’s creators. This may make it easier and more affordable for companies to create and use AI-generated content in their marketing materials or other creative projects.
However, it is important to note that the USOC’s decision only applies to AI-generated content that is produced solely from a text prompt. If a human user contributes to the creative process in any other way, such as by selecting certain parameters or providing feedback on the output, then they may be considered a co-author of the final work and could potentially claim copyright protection.
In conclusion, the USOC’s recent guidance on AI-generated content and copyright raises important questions about the intersection of technology and creativity. While it may make it easier and more affordable for businesses to use AI-generated content, also emphasizes the need to recognize the role of humans in creating and controlling these technologies.
The United States Copyright Office (USCO) has stated that the level of human creativity involved in a work is a significant factor in determining whether it is eligible for copyright protection. The USCO has determined that current artificial intelligence (AI) models cannot generate copyrightable material. According to the USCO, users do not have ultimate creative control over how generative AI systems interpret prompts and generate content. Therefore, copyright protection can only apply to material that is a product of human creativity.
An example of this can be seen in a famous case where the USCO ruled that selfies taken by a monkey could not be copyrighted because they were not the product of human creativity. When it comes to works that contain material generated by an AI, the USCO considers whether the model’s contributions to the work result from “mechanical reproduction” (i.e., generated in response to text prompts) or if they represent the author’s “own mental conception.”
According to current rules, the USCO will not register works produced by a machine or a mere mechanical process that operates randomly or automatically without any creative input or intervention from a human author. In other words, copyright protection is only granted to works that involve a significant degree of creativity from human authors, not works produced solely by machines or AI models without human input.