The US Copyright Office says you can’t protect images generated by Midjourney AI

The US Copyright Office has reconsidered the copyright protection it granted last fall to Kristina Kashtanova for her comic book Zaria of Dawn, reports Reuters. It featured images created by passing text prompts to Midjourney, an artificial intelligence image generator.

According to this letter (PDF) sent to her lawyer by Robert Kasunic, associate of the Copyright Registry, the United States Copyright Office has decided that Kashtanova “is the author of the text of the Work as well as the selection, coordination and arrangement of the text of the Work”. written and visual elements.

The images themselves, however, “are not the product of a human author”, and the registration originally granted for them has been cancelled. To justify the decision, the Copyright Office cites previous cases where people were unable to protect words or songs that mention “non-human spirit 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 said it only became aware that the images had been produced by Midjourney after the registration was granted, based on Kashtanova’s social media posts, and had sought more information accordingly. Midjourney and Kashtanova are named on the cover of the book, but according to the letter, this is the only place where Midjourney appears in the 18 pages of documents submitted to the Copyright Office, and “The fact that the word ‘Midjourney’ appears on the page custody of a work does not constitute notice to the Office that an AI tool has created part or all of the work.”

In the conclusion of the letter, Kasunic writes that the original certificate was issued on the basis of “inaccurate and incomplete information”, and that is why it will be canceled.

The artist posted the decision on Instagram, calling it a “big day” for people using Midjourney and similar tools. “When you put your pictures in a book like Zarya, the arrangement is protected by copyright. The story is copyrighted so long as it is not purely AI-produced,” she wrote, while expressing her disappointment with the Copyright Office’s decision. not to grant him the copyright to the individual images.

The Copyright Office’s decision takes into account how Midjourney produces image output by dividing word prompts into tokens which it compares to training data. While noting that other AI programs might work differently, the letter states that “the fact that the specific output of Midjourney cannot be predicted by users makes Midjourney different for copyright purposes from other tools. used by artists.

The Bureau also rejects the claim that its edits to some of the images make them eligible for copyright, ruling that the edits were either “too minor and imperceptible to provide the creativity necessary for copyright protection.” author” or that he could not determine his contributions based on the information submitted.

Kashtanova’s attorney, Lindberg, disagrees, saying, “There are a number of errors in the Bureau’s arguments, some legal and some factual. However, they all seem to stem from a basic factual misunderstanding of the role chance plays in the generation of Midjourney’s images.

The errors he lists include the interpretation of whether Kashtanova contributed a “minimum” input or not. Has his quick engineering been called mere suggestion or, as he argues, did his instructions cause Midjourney to “do exactly what it’s programmed to do and fire from a place chosen by the artist in his huge array of probabilities to drive the generation of an image”?

According to Lindberg: “AI-assisted art will have to be treated like photography. It’s just a matter of time.”

Kashtanova closed her post by saying, “My attorneys are considering our options to further explain to the Copyright Office how the individual images produced by Midjourney are the direct expression of my creativity and therefore copyrighted.”

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