As debates over AI-generated art rage on, a New York-based artist has charted her own path to legal precedent. As of September 15, self-proclaimed photographer and “part-time fast engineer” Kris Kashtanova claims to have secured the first-ever US copyright for a comic book created using AI, for their 18-page book titled Dawn Zaria.
“I was open about how it was made and put Midjourney on the cover page,” Kashtanova said in an announcement posted to Instagram last week. “I tried to argue that we own copyright when we make something using AI.” for more comments.
Despite the artists’ assurances, there is still some uncertainty as to whether a new precedent has actually been set. ARS Technica pointed out that while artists have likely recorded works created using generative technology since its beginnings in the 1960s, the company is still waiting for the copyright to be assigned to an algorithm itself. And Gizmodo assessed publicly available copyright documents, determining that they do not directly reference the role of AI in the work. Instead, Kashtanova called their comic “AI-assisted.”
“From what I can tell, the AI issue was not squarely in front of the Copyright Office’s registration specialist,” said Joel Feldman, of the firm’s trademark office. Atlanta-based attorneys Greenberg Traurig told Gizmodo, “At most, this could have been an oversight of information appearing in the material filed, but not in the copyright application.”
In another Instagram post, Kashtanova told the story behind Zarya took shape in their minds from September 2021, after the death of their grandmother Raya, who appears in the comic. This coincided with Kashtanova’s creative experiments in self-portraits and world-building using Cinema4D and Photoshop.
“These worlds were my escape, and it was less about the visuals and more about the writing,” Kashtanova said. But the AI-generated art — shimmering, dystopian, and sometimes fraught with aesthetic issues — could be the comic’s main focal point. The images were created using Midjourney’s AI, based on prompts and Kashtanova’s overall vision. The artist then put it all together in a standard comic book format.
On 18 pages, Dawn Zarya is just a small part of a bigger story, Kashtanova added. Since getting the copyright, Kashtanova has the power to earn money from the job, but they said they have no plans to, and the comic is currently available for download. free on AI Comic Books. The online community has so far translated the story into 15 languages.
The question of whether an AI can be granted copyright, however, might be moot. Artist Sasha Stiles, for example, has just produced a book called TECHNICAL, working with what she described as “an AI-powered poet alter-ego”, she developed using OpenAI’s GPT-2 and GPT-3 systems.
“There’s no way I could have written some of the poems without AI, but there’s no way AI could have written them without me,” Stiles told Artnet News. “When an intelligent human and an intelligent system work hand in hand – to make a pun on the word ‘digital’ – they conjure up a third imagination or transhuman voice, and that third voice is something of its own. “
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