Can I Copyright My AI-Generated Work?

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As an artist, it is important to protect your hard work from those who may want to make a profit out of it or who may want to take credit for it. In an ever growing technological world, it is imperative to understand how Artificial Intelligence (AI) works and how it melds with copyright law.

What Is Copyright?

A copyright is a type of intellectual property that gives its owner the exclusive right to copy, distribute, adapt, display, and perform a creative work, usually for a limited time. The creative work may be in a literary, artistic, educational, or musical form. Copyright normally protects (1) literary works; (2) musical works, including any accompanying words; (3) dramatic works, including any accompanying music; (4) pantomimes and choreographic works; (5) pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works; (6) motion pictures and other audiovisual works; (7) sound recordings, which are works that result from the fixation of a series of musical, spoken, or other sounds; and (8) architectural works. 

For example, let’s say that Artist Anna wants to protect her lyrics and sheet music for her song, “B Strong,” from being misused in the music industry. She may be able to register her song lyrics with the United States Copyright Office (USCO) in order to protect her intellectual property. 

How Do I Register a Copyright?

The first step before registering a copyright is to decide whether you want to register it in the first place. Copyright fees can be expensive, and 9 times out of 10, you are protected by what is called “common law copyright law.” Common law copyright law says that the work or expression belongs to the individual who first authored it. For example, if in 1999, Johnny drew a doodle that he would later sell for $10,000 in his art exhibit in 2019, even if Johnny never registered the copyright for his doodle with the USCO, he would still be protected under the right of first use under the common law. 

Nevertheless, if you wish to register your work, you must file a specific application with the USCO, such as Literary Form TX, and pay the registration fee. Registration fees can cost from $45 to $500 depending on the work and the filer’s status. 

However, one must keep in mind that copyright does not protect (1) ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, or discoveries; (2) works that are not fixed in a tangible form (such as a choreographic work that has not been notated or recorded or an improvisational speech that has not been written down); (3) titles, names, short phrases, and slogans; (4) familiar symbols or design; (5) mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, or coloring; and (6) mere listings of ingredients or contents. 

What Is Artificial Intelligence?

Artificial intelligence is intelligence (perceiving, synthesizing, and inferring information) demonstrated by machines, as opposed to intelligence displayed by non-human animals and humans. 

Is AI-Generated Work Copyrightable?

In 2023, the USCO made its final decision regarding “Zarya of the Dawn’s” copyright registration. “Zarya of the Dawn,” registration number VAu001480196, was filed by Kristina Kashtanova on November 21, 2022 as an AI-generated comic book. While Kristina wrote the plot and the dialogue, the AI created the design, the infamous aspect of a comic book. The USCO in its February 21, 2023 letter wrote that because the “Work [was] generated by the Midjourney technology” it was not the product of human authorship, an important aspect of copyright law. As such, it held that although the AI-generated designs were not protected by copyright, the parts of the comic book that she created, such as the dialogue, were protected by her copyright registration. 

EPGD Business Law is located in beautiful Coral Gables, West Palm Beach and historic Washington D.C. Call us at (786) 837-6787, or contact us through the website to schedule a consultation.

*Disclaimer: this blog post is not intended to be legal advice. We highly recommend speaking to an attorney if you have any legal concerns. Contacting us through our website does not establish an attorney-client relationship.*

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Eric Gros-Dubois

Eric P. Gros-Dubois founded EPGD Business Law in 2013 and is the current head of the firm’s corporate, estate planning, and tax practice, and manages the firm’s Washington D.C. office. With a JD and MBA, and a specialization in finance, Eric is able to step back and view the legal world through a commercial lens while also acting as a trusted business advisor for his clients. He does his best to be solutions oriented, and tries to think like a business owner, not just a lawyer.


*The following comments are not intended to be treated as legal advice. The answer to your question is limited to the basic facts presented. Additional details may heavily alter our assessment and change the answer provided. For a more thorough review of your question please contact our office for a consultation.

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