Selling AI-Generated Images

AI-Generated Images and Copyright Law

You’ve probably seen them before—stunning images that look like they could have been painted by a professional artist, but were actually generated by an AI.

As AI-Generated art becomes more and more common, the question of copyright becomes murkier and murkier. After all, if a machine can create a work of art, who owns the copyright to that work?

The answer, it turns out, is not as simple as you might think.

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Artificial Intelligence
AI concept image made with MidJourney AI-Art Generator

Who Owns the Copyright to AI-Generated Content?

In the United States, European Union, and most other countries, copyright law gives copyright protection to “original works of authorship,” including paintings, sculptures, photographs, and other works of art.

Importantly, this protection is not extended to ideas or facts—only to the expressions of those ideas or facts.

So, what does that mean for AI-generated images?

In general, AI-generated images will be protected by copyright law if they meet the following three criteria:

  • They are original works of authorship.
  • They are created by a human being (i.e., not a machine).
  • They are fixed in a tangible medium (such as a painting or sculpture).

According to these criteria, AI-generated images are not protected by copyright as being made by a machine.

Ok, but how about photography? Photos are also made by a machine, by a camera to be exact, and the photographer doesn’t actually create the image, they just press the button. Surely photos aren’t copyrightable?

Photos are considered to be copyrightable works of art, even if they are taken by a camera. This is because the Copyright Laws specifically include photographs as one of the types of protected works of authorship.

And while it’s true that the photographer doesn’t create the image, they do choose what to photograph and how to frame the shot—which is enough originality to warrant copyright protection.

However, Also AI art requires the ability to visualize, plan, and also skills to describe, and command the AI to create the image that the user wants. Does this not make the AI artist the creator of the art? Aren’t the copyright laws out of date?

There are more open questions than answers when it comes to the copyrightability of AI-generated art.

So, at moment we are in murky waters when it comes to copyright law and AI-generated images. But as AI art becomes more prevalent, we can expect the law to adapt and evolve to better reflect the reality of this new type of art.

Current laws do not represent the world we live in and the technology we have today.


While AI-generated images are not currently protected by copyright law, this could change in the future as AI art becomes more prevalent. For now, though, the law is not well-equipped to deal with this new type of art.

Photography is protected by copyright so it can be assumed that AI-generated art will also receive the same type of protection. But until the law catches up to the reality of AI-generated art, we will continue to live in murky waters.

What do you think?

Should AI-generated images be protected by copyright law? Should the law be changed to reflect the reality of today’s technology?

Or should AI-generated art be banned as a creation of evil? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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