Are the Image Rights Trolls Unhappy?

March 21, 2023

Imagine the money. Art aggregators like Getty Images, Alamy, and others suck up images from old books, open source repositories, and probably from kindergarteners. Then when some blog boob uses an image, the image rights trolls leap into action. Threatening letters flood the “infringers” and a reminder than money must be paid. Who authorizes this? The law and the publishers who tell the “enforcer”, “Sure, get some money and will split it with you.” A great business indeed. Many “pigeons” are defeathered.

But there is a road block which some image rights trolls will endeavor to remove. “AI-Generated Images from Text Can’t Be Copyrighted, US Government Rules” states:

Any images that are produced by giving a text prompt to current generative AI models, such as Midjourney or Stable Diffusion, cannot be copyrighted in the US. That’s according to the US Copyright Office (USCO), which has equated such prompts to a buyer giving directions to a commissioned artist.

There is hope. The article points out:

The US Copyright Office left open the door for protecting works with AI-generated elements.

I can hear the sighs of relief from Mr. Pigeon’s office in London to the professionals exhaling at the Higbee law firm. Hope lives! The article adds:

However, the office has left the door open to granting copyright protections to work with AI-generated elements. “The answer will depend on the circumstances, particularly how the AI tool operates and how it was used to create the final work,” it said. “This is necessarily a case-by-case inquiry. If a work’s traditional elements of authorship were produced by a machine, the work lacks human authorship and the Office will not register it.” Last month, the USCO determined that images generated by Midjourney and used in a graphic novel were not copyrightable. However, it said the text and layout of Kris Kashtanova’s Zarya of the Dawn could be afforded copyright protection.

Will blog boobs who use machine generated images be able to illustrate their war veteran blogs, the church bulletins, and the individuals who wanted to celebrate flower arranging be free to create with smart software?

Maybe. I have confidence that legal eagles in the image trolling game will find a way. Where there is money to be had, creativity blooms. (Sorry flower person.)

Stephen E Arnold, March 21, 2023


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