An AI-Illustrated Comic Has Lost a Key Copyright Case

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Image: Midjourney

When Kris Kashtanova attempted to copyright their comic book Zarya of the Dawn, the United States Copyright Office originally granted them the rights. Later, the agency put the book under review because of Kashtanova’s social media, where they said that they had produced the images using the AI-image generator Midjourney. Now, the Copyright Office has made a decision.

The United States Copyright Office stated that Kashtanova “is the author of the Work’s text as well as the selection, coordination, and arrangement of the Work’s written and visual elements.” What they are not the author of is the art. They do not recognize any of the images as being owned or under Kashtanova’s copyright. Kashtanova has said that they edited and arranged the AI-generated art, and are therefore an artist. You can read Kashtanova’s statement to the Copyright Office during the review process here.

In response to these edits, the Copyright Office stated that the work they did was “too minor and imperceptible to supply the necessary creativity for copyright protection.” Despite this, Kashtanova stated on Facebook and on Instagram that “I received the Copyright Office’s decision today about Zarya of the Dawn. The great news is that they affirmed my copyright, so Zarya of the Dawn will stay officially registered.” They went on to say that that the way that the Copyright Office allowed the story to remain under copyright covers “a lot of uses for the people in the AI art community.”

There are similar laws and issues surrounding NFTs, as they are also “generated” art, even if the result is different. Regardless of the outcome, AI-generated images draw from a library of work that was non-consensually added to a databank without the knowledge of or permission from the original artists. The scraped images that Midjourney exploited according to Kashtanova’s prompts came up with base average, taking other people’s work and mashing it together according to managerial direction. Kashtanova will continue to pursue their copyright, despite this.

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