The US Copyright Office says you can’t copyright AI-generated Midjourney images

The US Copyright Office has reconsidered the copyright protection it granted last fall to Kristina Kashtanova for her comic book Zarya the Dawn, reports Reuters. There were pictures created by giving text prompts to Midjourney, an artificial intelligence image generator.

According to this letter (PDF) sent by Robert Kasunic, associate Copyright Program, to her lawyer, the US Copyright Office has determined that Kashtanova is “the author of the text of the Work as well as the selection, coordination and arrangement of the Lab. written and visual aspects.”

The images themselves, however, are not “the result of human authorship,” and the registration originally granted to them has been revoked. To justify the decision, the Copyright Office cites previous cases where people were unable to copyright words or songs that listed “non-human spiritual beings” or the Holy Spirit as the author – as well as the infamous incident where a selfie was taken. by a monkey.

The Copyright Office says it only became aware that Midjourney produced the images after the registration was granted, based on Kashtanova’s social media posts, and that she followed up with more information as a result. Both Midjourney and Kashtanova are named on the book’s cover, but according to the letter, that is the only place Midjourney appears in the 18 pages of material submitted to the Copyright Office, and “The truth is that the word “Midjourney” appearing on the cover page of a Work is not a notice to the Office that part or all of the Work was created by an AI tool.”

In the letter’s conclusion, Kasunic writes that the original certificate was issued based on “inaccurate and incomplete information,” which is why it will be revoked.

The artist posted the decision on Instagram, calling it a “great day” for people who use Midjourney and similar tools. “When you put your images into a book like Zarya, the arrangement is copyrighted. The story is copyrightable as well, as long as it’s not produced solely by AI,” she wrote, also expressing disappointment at the Copyright Office’s decision not to grant her copyright on the individual images.

The Copyright Office’s decision takes into account how Midjourney produces image output by breaking word prompts into signals that are compared to training data. While noting that other AI programs may work differently, the letter finds that “Because users cannot predict Midjourney’s specific output, Midjourney is different for copyright purposes than other tools used by artists.”

The Office also claims that her changes to some of the images are eligible for copyright, considering that the changes were “too small and imperceptible to provide the creativity necessary for copyright protection” or that she could not contribute be determined based on. the information submitted.

Kashtanova Lindberg’s lawyer disagrees, saying, “There are some errors with the Office’s arguments, some legal and some factual. However, they all seem to stem from a core factual misunderstanding of the role of randomness in the generation of the Midjourney image.”

Among the errors he lists is an interpretation of whether or not Kashtanova gave a “modicum” of input. Did her hasty engineering qualify as just a suggestion, or, as he argues, did her instructions prompt Midjourney to “just do as it’s programmed and draw from where an artist has chosen in his vast table of probabilities to generate the image” ?

Lindberg claims: “AI-assisted art must be treated like photography. It’s just a matter of time.”

Kashtanova closed her post saying: “My lawyers are looking at our options to further explain to the Copyright Office how individual images produced by Midjourney represent my creativity and are therefore copyrightable.”

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