In 2022, James Allen filed a copyright application for an image titled “Théâtre D’opéra Spatial” or “Space Opera Theatre.” While the image looked like a detailed science fiction painting, Allen had actually created it through painstaking experimentation in the AI imager Midjourney; He described using over 600 cue variations to get the look he wanted. But the US Copyright Office was not impressed. In a series of decisions, Allen’s work became one of the first copyright applications rejected specifically for the use of artificial intelligence tools, and an example of how these tools are raising new copyright conundrums virtually everywhere. all the time.
Generative AI programs, particularly image generators such as Midjourney, Stable Diffusion, and DALL-E, have raised fundamental questions about the extent to which artists’ rights to their work extend. Many are trained on huge data sets that include copyrighted works without the artists’ consent, and in the United States, a series of lawsuits could determine whether the requests fall within the framework of exceptions known as fair use. Meanwhile, the U.S. Copyright Office maintains that a computer program cannot create copyrighted art, frustrating people who view DALL-E or Stable Diffusion as Photoshop-like tools. .
Copyright exists to encourage the production of art, but copyright law also recognizes that most art is based on prior works; That is why there are exceptions such as fair use. There is a constant balancing act at play, and when a new technology appears, that balance may need to be renegotiated. Where will it fall in the case of AI? So far no one knows for sure.