AI Generated Art – Who Owns the Copyright?

I choose this Midjourney generated image as the featured image for this blog post as I think it clearly demonstrates some of the challenges we will face as artists using AI. In this image I used ‘graffiti by Banksy’ as the prompt and you can see how Midjourney closely aligned this to Banksy’s style.

This is going to be a massive topic in coming months and years as we continue to push back the barriers and explore all that AI has to bring us.

If you are using AI to generate art for fun, it’s not a bit deal as to who owns copyright, however if you are looking to use the art commercially, it certainly starts to become a very big deal.

Who Owns the Copyright Of My AI Generated Art?

Without any doubt whatsoever, the first place to look for information is within the terms and conditions of the particular platform you are using. Don’t take the word of some random guy in the forums, (unless, of course, they are a AI copyright lawyer in your country and can show you credentials to prove it!).

Honestly – just don’t!

Forums, chat rooms, groups etc are just full of people with an opinion – and unfortunately there opinion is just not good enough. If you are using AI generated art in your commercial endeavours, you need more than the opinion of some grumpy old Joe.

You will find commercial use clearly stated in the terms and conditions of most of the popular AI platforms. However, remember that with style transfer AI (for example Deep Dream Generator), you must own the copyright of both the initial image and the style image that you use in order for you to use these commercially.

If in doubt, contact the platform owners direct (and remember to keep copies for your records of their replies)

Can I Sell My AI Generated Art?

This is different to the copyright question. In Midjourney, for example, they state that we (paid members) can do with the images what we like but they don’t grant us copyright on the images. In effect we are licensed to use them. Note: Midjourney is in beta and other platforms are continuing to develop too, therefore refer to their Terms of Service to ensure you have the latest information. You will find more information about commercial use terms for Midjourney HERE.

Infringing Copyright & Trademark of Others

One thing we have to be aware of, is just because AI created the art, we still need to be sure we’re not infringing the intellectual property of others. Trademark is one area to be aware of. If you create an image which features, for example, a clear representation of Mickey Mouse, even if this isn’t a copy of an exact image, you are in danger of treading on Disney’s toes as Mickey Mouse is a trademarked character.

Therefore be careful with using trademarked characters in artwork you want to sell or use commercially.

What About Styles – Are They Copyright?

Copyright applies to finished works, not the ideas or style behind them.

The important thing to note, however, is if we are using the style of an artist, we cannot pass our work off as being produced by that artist and we cannot suggest to the customer that the art was created or endorsed by the artist.

Do Your Own Research

In a nutshell – do your own research! Find out about intellectual property for your own particular use – and in your specific country.

If you are creating AI generated art in Midjourney to create t-shirts to sell or using Deep Dream Generator to create artwork to sell based on your own photos, you are likely to find that this is permitted in the platform’s terms of use (but PLEASE don’t take my word for it – check and double check).

However, if you are creating unique assets, for example, which you are selling to a customer and they are asking that you assign them copyright, this is likely to be a much bigger topic for you.

Remember, these are new and exciting times. The creative world is changing and it’s up to us as artists to keep aware of how it affects us and our work 🙂

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