Midjourney AI Art, Who Owns the Copyright…?

Let’s talk about Midjourney and copyright – who owns the copyright of Midjourney AI images?

Short answer, as of July 2022, the creator does (but with caveats). The long answer – read on!

If you are creating AI art using Midjourney for fun, you’re probably not too worried about copyright and Intellectual Property (IP) issues. However, if you are using Midjourney AI art platform to create art for commercial purposes, whether to sell as prints, use as logo design, concept art with clients or any other of the whole rich treasure chest of commercial opportunities available to us, knowing who owns the copyright and how the images can be used is essential.

Note, this applies to people on the paid plan. People using the free plan do not have commercial rights to use their images.

Midjourney Copyright Update July 2022

In an update on 16th July 2022, Midjourney made a change to their terms, effectively flipping the terms so the user has copyright of an image they have created, but that they grant anon-exclusive license back to Midjourney.

You can read the full terms here https://midjourney.gitbook.io/docs/terms-of-service but the relevant passage is copied below:

By using the Services, you grant to Midjourney, its successors, and assigns a perpetual, worldwide, non-exclusive, sublicensable no-charge, royalty-free, irrevocable copyright license to reproduce, prepare Derivative Works of, publicly display, publicly perform, sublicense, and distribute text, and image prompts you input into the Services, or Assets produced by the service at your direction. This license survives termination of this Agreement by any party, for any reason

So, what does this mean?

Well, clearly I am not an IP lawyer, so check this out with someone who can give you legal advice if you need to be clear on ownership withing a business or commercial environment. However, how I understand this is we now own the copyright and license of an image but we grant Midjourney an unlimited license. The license we grant Midjourney allows them to do things like publish our images on the Midjourney website (unless you opt for the Private plan), allow for our images to be remixed (again, unless you are on the Private plan), and it allows them to use the images in promotional and marketing campaigns etc.

However, we’re not clear how else Midjourney could use the images. What do the terms of use mean by ‘reproduce’ for example. While we’ve got no reason to believe that Midjourney will reproduce images we’ve prompted commercially – it’s simply not clear at the moment.

Granting Platforms a License to Use Content

It’s not uncommon for platforms to require users to grant a license to use images or content created on that platform, typically for promotional purposes.

When we pin something to Pinterest, for example, we grant Pinterest a license to use our work. When we use Pinterest we agree to this clause:

You grant Pinterest and our users a non-exclusive, royalty-free, transferable, sublicensable, worldwide license to use, store, display, reproduce, save, modify, create derivative works, perform, and distribute your User Content on Pinterest solely for the purposes of operating, developing, providing, and using Pinterest. 

However, the big difference between the two licenses, is that Pinterest clearly defined how it is going to use the content we have granted them license to – ‘solely for the purposes of operating, developing, providing and using Pinterest‘.

The Midjourney agreement does not clarify how Midjourney or their successors can use the images that are created on their site. Could they, for example, create a coffee table book of the ‘best of Midjourney’ or sell prints from the site?

This of course would be problematic in some circumstances. For example, if I create a logo using Midjourney (which we did!), could I then use that with the assurance that there’d be no problems in the future? Well clearly that’s something to consider.

Midjourney Private Plan

Those on the Midjourney private plan do not have their work publicly available therefore part of the new agreement won’t apply. But Midjourney still have access to private images, so while private plan users have ownership of their images, it’s worth noting that Midjourney can still have a license to use those images created by private plan users, however in what circumstances isn’t clear.

So How Does It Affect You?

For many of us, this won’t make a difference. However, it does mean we need to be aware that while Midjourney grant us ownership of the images we prompt which is a huge step forward, we don’t have exclusive use. How this affects us as users will depend very much on our individual circumstances. For me, it’s fine, and the new update makes things clearer and more defined than before.

However, if I was working on behalf of a client and was selling exclusive work, I would definitely be wanting to have a conversation with an IP lawyer and Midjourney to clarify the situation at this point.

How do these new terms affect you – or does it even matter?

Remember Midjourney Is a Beta Service!

Remember Midjourney is in beta, and as such things will change and get refined. The whole purpose of a beta is to create the best possible service for users and Midjourny are responsive to user feedback. Therefore don’t be suprised if the terms change again – and also, do use the feedback channel on the Midjourney Discord server to give feedback on anything that concerns you or use the live Q&As to raise any issues. My experience is that the team behind the project are super-responsive and are eager to know our thoughts.

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