The US Copyright Office determines that AI-generated images are not copyrightable

The US Copyright Office decided that Illustrations for a new comic created with the Midjourney AI program are not protected by copyright law.

According to a letter issued by the Copyright Office, the comic strip Zarya of the Dawn was written by Kristina Kashtanova, and the Copyright Office notes that the publication’s text remains copyrighted. But the designs, all created by Midjourney, do not enjoy the same intellectual property protection.

Kashtanova originally filed for copyright protection in September 2022, but did not disclose that the illustrations were made by an AI imager.

We conclude that Mrs. Kashtanova is the author of the text of the Work, as well as the selection, coordination and arrangement of the written and visual elements of the Work. Said authorship is protected by copyright. However, as explained below, the artwork images generated by Midjourney technology are not human authorship.

Since the current registration of the work does not exempt its content generated in Midjourney, we intend to cancel the original certificate issued to Ms. Kashtanova and issue a new one covering only the expressive material created by her.

The letter goes on to explain that only images created by human beings can get copyright protectionciting instances where animals have taken pictures, which are not covered by US copyright law.


The letter also notes that Kashtanova tried to argue that her Midjourney nominations were some sort of creation or authorship, which the Copyright Office rejected.

A person providing text prompts to Midjourney does not “really shape” the generated images and is not the “mastermind” behind its. “Information contained in the instruction may ‘influence’ the generated image, but the instruction text does not dictate a specific result”said the Copyright Office.

AI imaging tools like Midjourney work by training itself on millions of images available on the web, creating images that resemble things that somehow already exist somewhere.

For example, there is currently an Instagram account called AI Muppet Generator that posts AI-created images that look like they were produced by Jim Henson’s studio. But they weren’t. They are “new” Muppets that were created with Midjourney and are unrelated to Disney, which purchased the Muppet brand in 2004.

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