AI artist Claire Silver, Register of Copyrights Shira Perlmutter discuss copyrightability of AI art on NPR with Scott Detrow

  • Scott Detrow of NPR hosted a fascinating discussion on the copyrightability of AI art, which is generated, at least partly, by AI. The explosion of ChatGPT tools involving text-to-image prompts has made it easy for everyone to create art using text prompts, although those who study what prompts to use probably have better results. (For example, I “created” the above image of a woman painting a robot via DALL-E, but it took me probably a dozen or so attempts/prompts to get the image I wanted. If you think my image should be copyrightable, why should the result change if I was successful on the first try?)
  • NPR’s Detrow interviewed the Register of Copyrights Shira Perlmutter and then AI artist Claire Silver. Two years ago, I would never have imagined this line-up on NPR, in part because I can’t recall any prior Register of Copyrights sitting down for an interview with NPR.

Register of Copyrights Perlmutter on copyrightability of AI art

  • Perlmutter explained the Copyright Office’s position that only humans can qualify as “authors” who are eligible for copyrights in the United States. (For more on this position, check out the Compendium, section 313.2 Works That Lack Human Authorship.) She used as an example the AI work, “A Recent Entrance to Paradise,” created entirely by the Creativity Machine submitted for copyright registration by Dr. Stephen Thaler in 2022. The Copyright Office ruled that the AI work below lacked human authorship and was not copyrightable.
  • Perlmutter didn’t have time to discuss the Copyright Office’s more recent rejection of an application to register the copyright for the AI generated images through text-to-image generator Midjourney, in the graphic novel “Zarya of the Dawn” by Kris Kashtanova; the text and arrangement created by Kashtanova were copyrightable.
  • But Perlmutter recognized that many AI artists are seeking copyright registrations. The Copyright Office is conducting an initiative to study Copyright and Artificial Intelligence. Said Perlmutter: “We want to learn as much as we can as quickly as we can, and to help people along the way to ensure that they’re able to protect their rights in the new environment and also able to enjoy the benefits that the new technology offers to them.”
  • There will be 4 sessions open to the public for listening:

Claire Silver calls us to rethink authorship in the age of AI

  • Claire Silver, one of the most well-known AI artists (who may use a pseudonym and a CryptoPunk character from the most famous NFT collection as her identity), explained how her use of AI tools has involved a range of uses, including (1) curating, cross-breeding, and “gardening” images with an AI tool to (2) training AI with her own models relying on her “own images or images that you’ve made with AI,” which then “learns what art is based on what you’ve given it.”
  • Silver thinks we need to rethink authorship in the age of AI:

 “I would say to please speak with the people who are making these systems – Emad of Stability AI is a good example – to understand exactly how they work and exactly the role of data in the process, and understand that we’re at the point where AI can read images from MRI brain scans and reinterpret them as similar images. I don’t see how traditional copyright will be able to hold up in the coming decade. With technology like that, I think you need to rethink how we look at influence, how we look at authorship.”

Claire Silver on authorship

Copyright Office documents

New Registration Guidance: Applicants have a duty to disclose the inclusion of AI-generated Content

Copyright Office’s dedicated page for Copyright and Artificial Intelligence – click here