The Chinese justice system set a remarkable precedent regarding the legal background of AI-generated images last week by ruling that an AI-generated image is protected by copyright.
The Beijing Internet court ruled that an AI-generated image met the requirements for copyright protection and awarded its creator monetary compensation for the other party's unauthorized use of his creation.
This decision marks not only the first time an AI-generated picture is considered copyrightable but also establishes a distinction from the US legal system, which has so far rejected copyright protection for AI-generated media.
A man identified as Mr. Li is said to have used the Stable Diffusion AI image generator to create photorealistic portraits of a young Japanese schoolgirl and shared them on Xiaohongshu, a Chinese social media platform similar to Instagram. An unnamed blogger was then accused of grabbing said pictures from that platform and using them in their blog without permission or compensation given to Li.
Mr. Li sued the blogger for the violation of his intellectual property.
At the end of November 2023, the Beijing Internet court that handled the case ruled in favor of Mr. Li; it considered the blogger responsible for copyright infringement and awarded Li 500 yuan –$70– in compensation for the violation of his intellectual property.
More importantly, this court established that Li’s AI-generated image met the criteria to be under copyright protection.
They considered that by crafting the text prompt and further curating images from the AI-generated results, Mr. Li had contributed enough human input in the decision-making of the creative process so that the picture met the requirements for originality and intellectual ownership.
This is a groundbreaking ruling in the field of AI-generated media, for it’s the first time that a court states that an AI-generated artwork is reached by intellectual property rights and the pertaining protection.
Moreover, the decision contrasts sharply with early rulings by the US court system, which have established that AI-made media isn’t copyrightable as there is not enough human intervention in the creative process of their creation.
Several experts consider this a sign that China will be more lenient regarding AI media legal status and thus be a much more business-friendly market for the generative AI industry.
For example, Chinese law professor Angela Zhang has publicly said that the ruling proves that “China is adopting a pro-growth, business-friendly stance in its AI regulation.”
As China competes with the Western markets in the AI tech industry as it does in so many other fields, a potentially friendlier legal frame for AI-generated media could attract AI companies to those latitudes.
As the first year of mass access to generative AI tools comes to an end, this development can certainly be very relevant in shaping a new legal frame for AI-generated media.
What are your thoughts?
I am an experienced author with expertise in digital communication, stock media, design, and creative tools. I have closely followed and reported on AI developments in this field since its early days. I have gained valuable industry insight through my work with leading digital media professionals since 2014.
AI Secrets is a platform for tech decision-makers to learn about AI technology. Our team includes experts such as Amos Struck (20+ yrs ICT, Stock Photo, AI), Ivanna Attie (expert in digital comms, design, stock media), and more who share their views on AI.
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