Question and Answer

In the U.S., can text or images created with generative AI be copyrighted?

Currently the answer is no. In order to be copyrighted, a work must have a human author.

However, the U.S. Copyright Office decided that the selection and arrangement of AI images in a graphic novel (Zarya of the Dawn) could be copyrighted as a whole work, but the images themselves (generated with Midjourney) could not be.

In another case, an author who used ChatGPT extensively while writing a novel filed a copyright registration for it. She was aiming to get the US Copyright Office to overturn its policy on work made with AI. The office made a similar decision where the “selection, coordination, and arrangement of the text that was generated by AI” could be copyrighted. So no one can copy the book without permission. But the actual sentences and paragraphs are not copyrighted, so theoretically, someone could rearrange them and publish it as a different book.

Copyright rulings in other countries may have different opinions. A Chinese court awarded copyright protection to AI-generated images in one case. It ruled that the human intellectual input for prompting and selecting images “reflects the plaintiff's personalized expression.”

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