Before we begin, remember I am not a lawyer, this is not legal advice, and I am drastically simplifying concepts for ease of understanding.
It’s been a few months since I last checked in on AI Art and wanted to update you. To make a very big issue very simple, right now there are quite a few lawsuits being argued to decide the legality around AI Art platforms, what is considered legal, what’s considered fair use, and what’s considered copyright infringement. These lawsuits may take a long time to hash out, and they will become the precedent for how AI Art use is accepted or not in our legal system. To simplify these cases, they mostly boil down to whether training AI platforms on imagery that is copyrighted is in fact infringement on those copyrights.
Equally important is the listening tour the US Copyright Office has been conducting on AI platforms. To sum up copyright law very quickly, the creator (author, artist, musician, etc) of a work gains automatic copyright of their work through creation of the work — as long as it’s not a derivative of a copyright that already exists. In other words, if you make up something original, you have the copyright, but if you draw a picture of Superman, the copyright is a derivative of DC Comics’ copyright on Superman. Currently the Copyright Office has been ruling that a machine cannot create in the same way a human can. In other words, a computer, algorithm, robot, etc. cannot make a work that can then be copyrighted.
However, lots of folks are fighting that ruling, trying to say things like a machine can create, or the copyright from anything an AI makes should be a derivative copyright of the makers of the machine in the first place. Obviously the copyright holders of the texts used to “train” the machine are fighting to say the copyrights are a derivative of theirs. It’s brand new ground and obviously hotly contended, so the US Copyright Office has been holding hearings on the topic.
There are many folks testifying over a few days. You can see the entire list here. The first 2 days were Visual Art. Then AudioVisual, then Music and Sound Recordings. And while those of us deep into this AI Art debate have listened to a lot of the hearings, as they include some of the biggest companies (Adobe, Getty) and greatest expertise in the fields. I would encourage you to listen to Visual Arts Hearings Day 2, where it was friend of Muddy Colors, artist, and activist Karla Ortiz‘s turn to give testimony.
Although I have cautioned since the beginning of this whole AI Art issue to not panic, it is important to resist, and stand up for creators’ rights and the copyrights that protect them. Thank you to Karla for putting so much time and work into both the lawsuit she is leading and all the press and speeches and outreach she has been doing on this topic. If you recall my post on Glaze, the program created by the University of Chicago to protect artists’ works from scraping, you’ll know Karla has been involved in that project as well, and I’ll leave you with a recent piece of art she made as a demo for Glaze and visual call to action.