Comic Illustrated by Synthetic Image AI Tool Midjourney Loses Copyright Protection
The United States Copyright Office (USCO) is working on ending copyright protection for a comic book created with synthetic media technology. The decision would reverse the earlier granting of the copyright to Kris Kashtanova, who self-published a comic called “Zarya of the Dawn” with images produced by Midjourney’s text-to-image engine, though she still has time to appeal the decision.
Zarya of the Dawn is inspired by Kashtanova’s grandmother, and she announced her comic’s copyright in September. Kashtanova used Midjourney to produce the art in the book, calling herself a “prompt engineer” and explaining that she wanted the copyright protection partly to argue the case for owning a work built with AI tools. The USCO initially granted the copyright as though Midjourney were no different than other digital illustration tools.
The decision to reverse the copyright stems from the rule that only works created by humans can be copyrighted. That came from attempts by people to copyright art made with animals, but the USCO has decided it applies to AI as well. Kashtanova said the USCO told her that it had made a mistake when it approved the copyright because it missed the role Midourney played in the comic, despite its presence on the cover. The reversal matches the USCO’s decision early this year when it refused copyright protection to artist Stephen Thaler for his AI-generated “A Recent Entrance to Paradise” painting. Thaler is currently suing the Copyright Office for the decision.
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