US Copyright Office reaffirms its rules on AI-created content


The US Copyright Office has just made an important and interesting decision regarding copyright and creative AIs, albeit one that essentially reaffirms its existing position.

It’s in relation to a graphic novel called ‘Zarya of the Dawn’ by author Kris Kashtanova, which included images created using the Midjourney service. The question is whether those images can be granted copyright protection, and the verdict – as reported by Reuters – is no, not on their own.

“We conclude that Ms. Kashtanova is the author of the Work’s text as well as the selection, coordination, and arrangement of the Work’s written and visual elements. That authorship is protected by copyright,” it explained in a letter.

However, the Midjourney images “are not the product of human authorship” so by themselves are not protected. The letter goes into much more detail about the decision, and how the Copyright Office sees works (in this case graphic novels) made using creative AI tools.

“The great news is that they affirmed my copyright, so Zarya of the Dawn will stay officially registered,” tweeted Kashtanova following the decision.

“This is a great day for everyone that is creating using Midjourney and other tools. When you put your images into a book like Zarya, the arrangement is copyrightable. The story is copyrightable as well as long as it’s not purely AI produced. That covers a lot of uses for the people in the AI art community.”

However, they retain hopes of persuading the Copyright Office that “individual images produced by Midjourney are a direct expression of my creativity and therefore copyrightable”.

We’re always wary of directly comparing music to other artforms: the issues and existing legal frameworks don’t necessarily match. But the point about individual elements of AI-created content not being copyrightable, but that an overall work that arranges them can be protected by copyright, is certainly interesting to consider in the light of music-making.

Written by: Stuart Dredge