The U.S. Copyright Office has again rejected copyright protection for art created using artificial intelligence, denying a request by artist Jason M. Allen for a copyright covering an award-winning image he created with the generative AI system Midjourney, Reuters reported.
The office said that Allen’s science-fiction themed image “Theatre D’opera Spatial” was not entitled to copyright protection because it was not the product of human authorship.
According to Reuters, the Copyright Office in February rescinded copyrights for images that artist Kris Kashtanova created using Midjourney for a graphic novel called Zarya of the Dawn dismissing the argument that the images showed Kastanova’s own creative expression. It has also rejected a copyright for an image that computer scientist Stephen Thaler said his AI system created autonomously.
Representatives for Midjourney did not immediately respond for a comment on the decision.
ArsTechnica reported that the US Copyright Office Review Board rejected copyright protection for an AI-generated artwork that won a Colorado State Fair art contest last year because it lacks human authorship required for registration. The win, which was widely covered in the press at the time, ignited controversy over the ethics of AI-generated artwork.
“The Board finds that the Work contains more than a de minimus amount of content generated by artificial intelligence (“Al”), and this content must therefore be disclaimed in an application for registration. Because Mr. Allen is unwilling to disclaim the AI-generated material, the Work cannot be registered as submitted,” the office wrote in its decision.
According to ArsTechnica, in this case, “disclaim” refers to the act of formally renouncing or giving up any claim to the ownership or authorship of the AI-generated content in the work. The office is saying that because the work contains a non-neglible (“more than a de minimus”) amount of content generated by AI, Allen must formally acknowledge that the AI-generated content is not his own creation when applying for registration. As established by Copyright Office precedent and judicial review, US copyright registration for a work requires human authorship.
The U.S.Copyright Review Board posted the following information:
On September 21, 2022, Mr. Allen filed an application to register a two-dimensional artwork claim in the Work. While Mr. Allen did not disclose in his application that the Work was created using an AI system, the Office was aware of the Work because it had garnered national attention for being the first AI-generated image to win the 2022 Colorado State Fair’s annual fine art competition.
Because it was known to the Office that AI-generated material contributed to the Work, the examiner assigned to the application requested additional information about Mr. Allen’s use of Midjourney, a text-to-picture artificial intelligence service, in the creation of the Work. In response, Mr. Allen provided an explanation of his process, stating that he “input numerous revisions and text prompts at least 624 times to arrive at the initial version of the image.” He further explained that, after Midjourney produced the initial version of the Work, he used Adobe Photoshop to remove the flaws and create new visual content and used Gigapixel AI to “upscale” the image, increasing its resolution and size. As a result of these disclosures, the examiner requested that the features of the Work generated by Midjourney be excluded from the copyright claim.
In my opinion, an art contest that was held at a State Fair was not the proper place to submit a piece of artwork that was nearly entirely generated by not one, but two AI generated content sites. The U.S. Copyright Office was correct to exclude Mr. Allen’s “Work” from winning the contest.