Could the next Picasso be a robot? AI-generated art has been around for some years, but most of the generated work was rudimentary and not worthy of the publicís adoration. Now? Artificial intelligence is crafting beautiful images on the fly and interest in such art has exploded, with some artworks winning awards and causing concern among human artists.
Currently, much of the art generated by artificial intelligence still relies on images and artwork initially created by humans. You might head to an AI-generating tool and type in some keywords. The AI program will analyze data from other already-created images images and then create artwork based on that data set. From there, many programs allow humans to step in and use a variety of tools to modify and remix the art.
Given the increasingly blurred line between human and machine, perhaps ‘cyborg art’ is a more apt descriptor. In 2021, Jason M. Allen won an art award at the Colorado State Fair with his surreal work “Theatre Díopera Spatial,” wowing audiences and drawing the ire of other artists. Allen noted that he broke no rules, though many felt he took unfair shortcuts.
The concept of artificial intelligence platforms developing full sentience has been a mainstay in science fiction for many years. Often, those intelligences go on to destroy the world or conquer humanity. Who knows — if AI ever does gain full sentience, maybe it’ll pick up a paintbrush instead.
AI-generated images test copyright laws
Last year was huge for artificial intelligence as software giants like Microsoft and Adobe pushed generative AI tools to market and new cash-flush AI startups flooded the scene.
Within just a few months, anyone with an internet connection could use AI tools like Midjourney or Dall-E to create images from verbal prompts. These tools use machine learning algorithms to sort through large numbers of existing images to generate unique images to fit user prompts.
The resulting flood of AI-created images alarmed artists who wished to protect their ownership rights and livelihoods, and raised urgent questions about authorship and intellectual property. Who owns work that a machine creates? And how can human creators protect their work from being swept up into machine learning algorithms?
According to IP Watchdog, the United States Copyright Office (USCO) appears to be siding with humans for now. The USCO denied registration of an AI-generated image in early 2022, citing the Human Authorship requirement of the Copyright Act, which states that copyrighted work must be created with “substantial human involvement.” In October of last year, the USCO reversed a registration it had issued for a graphic novel that had previously made headlines as the first known instance of successful registration of AI-generated work. In a statement, the USCO explained that it would not knowingly issue registrations to works generated solely by AI and machine.
In the future, copyright laws must be updated to reflect degrees of human involvement, according to the Verge. AI companies are also likely to find ways to ensure that their AI models cannot facilitate copyright infringement.