You’re Wrong About Ai Copyright

Jul 16, 2023

Jon Crooks

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

You’re Wrong About Ai Copyright

Jul 16, 2023

Jon Crooks

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

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I can’t seem to get a straight answer when it comes to the question of owning the copyright to a photo or video taken in a video game. Not being a lawyer, and with the understanding that this is not legal advice, it seems to be largely about what constitutes “Fair Use” under U.S. Copyright law.

Have I made enough commentary about the video game to justify including it in my video? Do I actually own the copyright to a photograph I take in a game? Can I sell copies? Does the licensing agreement I agreed to when I bought the game violate my first amendment rights? (probably not)

[Related Reading: A somber prediction – A.I. will replace all creatives]

These all seem like good questions, but they become even more complicated when you start talking about AI-generated images, video, and even virtual environments. As of this writing, the U.S. Copyright Office has decided that AI-generated images do not have a copyright automatically the way photos do. However, you do seem to own the copyright to the prompt that made it. It all feels very 18% gray at this point. Here is a link for more info.

What if Ai Generated comes to mean anything generated by a software algorithm? After all, it does seem like it would be exceptionally difficult to try to legally define which types of software are tools that help you create copyrighted works and which are not. 

Would a photo I take in the procedurally generated environment of “No Man’s Sky” qualify as partially AI-Generated, and thus have no copyright protection? What about Adobe’s new Firefly software that’s been integrated into Photoshop? What about images created in stable diffusion on my own machine, entirely from a dataset of my own real-world copyrighted photos, and my own written prompts? Do they have copyright protection? Where do we draw the line?

One thing I do know is that many people are focusing on the entirely wrong thing when it comes to A.I. Image copyright. Some artists seem awfully angry that this software can replicate their style and make images so good it looks like the artist did it themselves. They believe that this is a violation of copyright law and does not fall under fair use. In my opinion, not only are they wrong, but this is not where the issue lies at all.

These A.I. image generators allegedly use copyrighted image datasets to train their software, without permission or payment. If it was just a sophisticated software program that could replicate people’s works without stealing their training data, then I feel that would easily fall under fair use. But the fact that these copyrighted works seem to be required for the software to work at all is where the real issue lies.

So do you think it’s ok for me to take your copyrighted works and somehow make money off of it, indirectly, and without your permission? That seems to be happening with these image generators and soon, video.

It seems to me the A.I. Copyright wars have just begun.

About the author

Jonathan Crooks is a street photographer and the pushing force at Prime Studios, a valuable resource for anything and everything film related.

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6 responses to “You’re Wrong About Ai Copyright”

  1. chross Avatar
    chross

    You have an interesting point, however I believe this discussion is as old as time. It boils down to the distinction between being “inspired” and “copying”, and that can only be decided by a judge on a case to case basis and will not be fair in every case. Another artist, let it be a painter or photographer can be inspired by another artist, either creating works at the fringe of copyright violation or simply getting entirely new ideas from the artists work. If you consider previous artwork from an artist the “training data”, how could this ever be distinguished? There is no need to consider infringing AIs if those questions are not solved for human interactions, although the sheer volume of AI-generated images may make a difference.
    There are many examples where styles are copied, especially in photography, and at some point, a certain style may even become so common, it won’t be regarded as something special anymore. It was the case when photo filters popped up on every camera-enabled phone, some artists weren’t happy because their “unique” lightning/colouring was copied. Same is with model poses and with the framing of subjects. Very often, there will be a huge grey area and in only a few cases there will be a consensus regarding copyright violation.
    Given the fact that our laws are still struggling with uncertainities like having a patterned wallpaper in the background of your photos for your apartment rental advertisement (the photographer of the wallpaper image sued) or displaying a magazine cover on a small table in one of your images (photographer of the magazine cover sued) or simply photographing a landmark/architectural building and trying to sell those images (you need permittion from the architect), it seems unlikely that we will solve this complex question for AI in the near future.

    Example photo vs painting: https://petapixel.com/2022/12/08/photographer-loses-plagarism-case-against-artist-who-ripped-off-her-work/

    Example photo vs photo from different angle, same subject: https://www.dpreview.com/articles/1166562748/imitated-image-copyright-case

    Example art styles: https://www.klemchuk.com/ideate/can-similar-art-style-create-copyright-infringement

    1. Libby Sutherland Avatar
      Libby Sutherland

      It’s even extended to food where a baking company had suits over using images of its cupcakes or copying their “unique” fondant design topping the cake. I warn people wanting to try stock photography or commercial lifestyle shoots of watching their propping in the shots. Like in the kitchen — get those Kitchen Aid mixers and recognizable coffee makers off of the counters. And above all, don’t wear Nike t shirts or adidas stripes in your shots. Watch the unique footwear too. It’s a minefield for sure.

      1. Kaouthia Avatar
        Kaouthia

        “above all, don’t wear Nike t shirts”

        Trademark infringement and copyright infringement are two very different things. You can wear Nike shirts jut fine, as long as the logo’s not showing, as it’s a registered trademark.

        1. Libby Sutherland Avatar
          Libby Sutherland

          True. Was thinking of intellectual property overall.

      2. Kaouthia Avatar
        Kaouthia

        “above all, don’t wear Nike t shirts”

        Trademark infringement and copyright infringement are two very different things. You can wear Nike shirts jut fine, as long as the logo’s not showing, as it’s a registered trademark.

  2. Madara Avatar
    Madara

    It’s one thing to be inspired or create a derivative work, but when the machine learning is based on copywritten work, it becomes problematic.