Can Using AI for Creating Art be Considered Intellectual Property Theft?

August 03, 2023 by Seppi Esfandi in Rights  Special Report  
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Can Using an AI for Creating Art be Considered Intellectual Property Theft?

AI-generated art has revolutionized the creative landscape, allowing both experienced artists and amateurs to create striking and original-looking images. However, the rise of AI art has also raised concerns about intellectual property theft and the potential impact on artists’ livelihoods. In this article, we will explore the legal and ethical implications of using AI for art creation and delve into the debates surrounding copyright ownership, fair use, and the changing role of artists in the digital age.

The Emergence of AI Art

The development of large AI models like GPT and art-generating tools such as Midjourney and OpenAI’s Dall-E has democratized the creation of art. These AI systems enable users to generate artwork by inputting prompts or datasets, allowing for the production of unique and visually striking images. This technological advancement has sparked a heated conversation about the nature of art and its relationship with AI.

Copyrightability and Ownership in AI Art

One of the central issues surrounding AI-generated art is the question of copyright ownership. Who owns the rights to the artwork created by AI systems? Unlike traditional art, where the creator is typically recognized as the copyright owner, AI art blurs the lines of authorship and ownership. While AI systems facilitate the generation of art, they lack the legal standing to claim copyright ownership.

In the famous “Monkey Selfie” case, a crested macaque named Naruto took a photographer’s camera and snapped a series of photographs of himself. The photographer and his publishing company claimed copyright ownership, but the court ruled that animals cannot hold copyrights. Similarly, AI systems, being non-human entities, cannot be deemed authors under current copyright law.

However, this does not mean that AI-generated art is entirely devoid of copyright protection. The input and initial creative direction provided by human artists play a crucial role in shaping the final output of AI art. Artists who utilize AI tools can still claim some element of authorship in the resulting work, as their creative choices and input influence the AI’s output.

Fair Use and AI-Created Works

The concept of fair use becomes particularly relevant when considering AI-generated art. Fair use allows for the limited use of copyrighted material without permission from the copyright owner. In the case of AI-generated art, which often incorporates existing works or datasets, determining the boundaries of fair use can be challenging.

The transformative nature of the AI-generated work is a key factor in evaluating fair use. If the resulting AI artwork significantly differs from the original source material and offers a new creative expression, it may be more likely to qualify as fair use. However, if the AI-generated work closely replicates the original, it may be considered infringement.

It is worth noting that the use of AI-generated art tools does not absolve artists from potential legal consequences. Artists should still exercise caution and ensure that their AI-generated works do not infringe upon the rights of others. Obtaining licenses for copyrighted material or using public domain works can help mitigate legal risks.

The Changing Role of Artists in the AI Era

The advent of AI art has sparked concerns about the future of artists’ careers and the potential displacement of human creativity by AI systems. Some fear that AI-generated art will render traditional artists obsolete, eliminating the need for mentorship and stifling the development of artistic skills.

However, proponents argue that AI-generated art can coexist with human art, with each offering unique value. While AI systems can produce art quickly and efficiently, they lack the emotional depth and subjective interpretation that human artists bring to their work. Human art, therefore, may become highly valued as a distinct and rare form of artistic expression.

It is also important to consider the potential benefits of AI for artists. AI tools can assist artists in generating ideas, expediting the creative process, and exploring new artistic possibilities. By leveraging AI technology, artists can enhance their productivity and delve into uncharted artistic territories.

Ethical Considerations and Responsibilities

As AI-generated art continues to proliferate, ethical considerations come to the forefront. Artists and developers of AI art tools have a responsibility to ensure that their creations do not infringe upon the rights of others or contribute to the devaluation of human creativity.

Artists should be mindful of the sources they use for inspiration and input into AI systems. Scrutinizing the datasets and ensuring they have proper licensing or fall within the boundaries of fair use can help artists avoid potential legal pitfalls. Developers, on the other hand, should implement safeguards to prevent AI systems from utilizing copyrighted material without permission.

Transparency is also vital in the AI art realm. Artists should clearly disclose the involvement of AI in the creation of their work, ensuring that viewers understand the collaborative nature of the process. This transparency fosters a deeper appreciation for the intersection of art and technology and promotes an ethical and responsible approach to AI-generated art.

The Future of AI Art and Legal Frameworks

As AI art continues to evolve, legal frameworks may need to adapt to address the unique challenges it presents. Copyright laws may require revisions to account for the collaborative nature of AI-generated art, acknowledging the contributions of both human artists and AI systems. Similarly, fair use guidelines may need to be refined to provide more clarity in the context of AI-generated works.

Additionally, regulations surrounding AI-generated art may emerge to protect artists’ rights and prevent intellectual property theft. These regulations could include restrictions on the usage of copyrighted material within AI systems or requirements for AI art tools to obtain licenses for copyrighted works. Balancing the promotion of creativity and innovation with the protection of artists’ rights will be crucial in shaping the future of AI art.


AI-generated art has opened up new possibilities for artistic expression and creative exploration. However, it has also raised complex legal and ethical questions regarding copyright ownership, fair use, and the role of artists in the digital age. While AI systems cannot claim copyright ownership, artists utilizing AI tools can still assert their authorship in the creative process. The boundaries of fair use in AI-generated art require careful consideration, with the transformative nature of the work serving as a key factor. As the field of AI art continues to evolve, it is essential for artists, developers, and policymakers to navigate these challenges while upholding ethical standards and supporting the flourishing of human creativity.

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