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Art-istic or Art-ificial? Ownership and copyright concerns in AI-generated artwork

Protecting Your Artwork in the Age of AI: Leveraging
the Center for Art Law


Credit: DALL·E 2; text prompts (left to right): painting of a robot holding justice scales; painting of a robot-artist painting flowers; painting of a robot reading a law book.

What does it take to be an artist in the 21st century? Can one create art with paint brushes, watercolors, or oil pastels? Or can one simply think art into existence? ‘AI’ artwork generators like DALL·E and Stable Diffusion, offer users the ability to quickly create detailed images based on prompts, which can be anything you think of— An astronaut surfing in Times Square? A lawyer relaxing on the beach? (one could dream!) or a robot learning the law… in the artistic style of Da Vinci? You got it. However, when the idea is realized and the masterpiece has been generated– who owns it? who is the maker? the ‘AI’ or a copyright holder that the artwork is based on? Who has a perfected (or any) claim of co-authorship? Who can commercialize these images? Can someone be sued for infringement if they use the image without permission?

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Credit: DALL·E 2; text prompt: Oil painting of an astronaut surfing in Times Square, glitter and wide angle

Introducing DALL·E 2

Artists build autonomous robots to collaborate with– they feed algorithms with data, and train machines to generate different kinds of visual works.[1] Creators, such as Google Arts & Culture Lab, work with computer programs that mimic the human mind to generate a never-ending stream of unique artworks. Artificial intelligence has therefore emerged as a desirable collaborator in artistic creation.[2] While AI-produced art has been around for some time, software released this year including, DALL·E 2, Midjourney AI, and Stable Diffusion, has allowed even the most inexperienced artists to produce intricate, abstract, or photorealistic compositions by merely typing a few words into a text box.[3] DALL-E 2 is learned by an OpenAI model called CLIP (Contrastive Language-Image Pre-training) which functions as the main bridge between text and images. Through machine learning, AI is trained in data and is now able to create images and generate art by itself. The training data in this case is an aggregate of large datasets of images and tagged images labeled into a set of categories, across the internet,[4] out of which most images are likely protected by copyright. The output images that these tools can generate are figurative-looking — in that it is believable that the artwork could have been created by a real person or artist.[5]

OpenAI, an artificial intelligence research laboratory, was founded in

San Francisco in late 2015 by Carlos Virella, Elon Musk, Greg Brockman

Ilya Sutskever, Sam Altman


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