Does Artificial Intelligence Violate Copyright?

A recent article from the Smithsonian magazine raises an interesting question, can AI generated images violate a copyright held by another? The article raises a thought experiment:

“Type in a prompt like “a chocolate bar riding a bicycle in the style of Picasso,” and artificial intelligence tools including DALL-EMidjourney and Stable Diffusion can conjure an image for you in seconds. They do so by incorporating elements from the vast libraries of digitally available images and artwork from across the internet that they have been trained on.

But in doing so, are those A.I. tools infringing on the copyrights of the artists behind those images? That question is at the heart of two new lawsuits.”

The article offers interesting insights into this new and developing area of law likely to be investigated throughout the 21st century. Ella Feldman, Smithsonian Magazine. (accessed January 26, 2023.)

The United States copyright law is contained in Title 17 of the United States Code. It was enacted well before the oncoming omnipresence of AI and AI related technology. It contains provisions for “Fair Use” which is a doctrine permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances ultimately in an effort to promote free expression. Is AI a commercial product inappropriately co-opting other’s copyright content? Is it a user generated promotion of free expression? Is it something else?

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