AI-created graphic novel images lose US copyrights in test for new technology

Zarya of the Dawn.
Zarya of the Dawn. Photo credit: supplied

Images in a graphic novel that were created using the artificial-intelligence system Midjourney should not have been granted copyright protection, the US Copyright Office said in a letter seen by Reuters.

Zarya of the Dawn author Kristina Kashtanova is entitled to a copyright for the parts of the book she wrote and arranged, but not for images she made using Midjourney, the office said in its letter this week.

The decision is one of the first by a US court or agency on the scope of copyright protection for works created with AI, and comes amid the meteoric rise of generative AI software like Midjourney, Dall-E and ChatGPT.

The Copyright Office said in its letter that it would reissue its registration for Zarya of the Dawn to omit images that "are not the product of human authorship."

Midjourney did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Copyright Office had no comment on the decision.

Kashtanova called it "great news" that she retained the copyright for her story and arrangement of the images, which she said "covers a lot of uses for the people in the AI art community".

She said she and her lawyers were considering how best to press ahead with their argument that the images themselves were a "direct expression of my creativity and therefore copyrightable".

Midjourney is an AI-based system that generates images based on text prompts entered by users. Kashtanova wrote the text of Zarya of the Dawn, and Midjourney created the book's images based on her prompts.

The Copyright Office told Kashtanova in October it would reconsider the book's copyright registration because her application did not disclose Midjourney's role.

The office said that it would grant copyright protection for the book's text and the way Kashtanova selected and arranged its elements. But it said she was not the "master mind" behind the images themselves.

"The fact that Midjourney's specific output cannot be predicted by users makes Midjourney different for copyright purposes than other tools used by artists," the letter said.