The US Copyright Office has rejected another AI-generated image’s request for copyright protection

The US Copyright Office has rejected another AI-generated image's request for copyright protection

Once again, the US Copyright Office has declined to grant copyright protection for artwork generated through artificial intelligence. This denial pertains to a request made by artist Jason M. Allen to secure copyright for an award-winning image he produced using the generative AI system Midjourney.

On Tuesday, the Copyright Office stated that Allen’s image, titled “Theatre D’opera Spatial,” which featured a science-fiction theme, did not qualify for copyright protection because it lacked human authorship.

This decision follows the Copyright Office’s earlier revocation of copyrights for images created by artist Kris Kashtanova using Midjourney for a graphic novel called “Zarya of the Dawn.” In that case, the Copyright Office rejected the argument that Kashtanova’s images reflected their own creative expression. Additionally, the office rejected a copyright claim for an image created autonomously by computer scientist Stephen Thaler’s AI system.

Jason Allen, responding to the office’s decision, expressed that he had anticipated this outcome but remained confident in eventually prevailing. He voiced concerns about the potential consequences, stating, “If this stands, it is going to create more problems than it solves. This is going to create new and creative problems for the copyright office in ways we can’t even speculate yet.”

As of Wednesday, representatives from Midjourney had not responded to requests for comment regarding the decision.

Allen had initially applied for copyright registration in September for “Theatre D’opera Spatial,” an image that depicted a futuristic royal court and had garnered attention by winning the Colorado State Fair’s art competition in 2022. During the Copyright Office’s examination process, they requested further details about Midjourney’s role in creating the image, which had gained national recognition as the first AI-generated work to secure such a contest victory.

Allen informed the office that he had made numerous revisions and provided text prompts approximately 624 times to arrive at the initial version of the image using Midjourney. He later made alterations using Adobe Photoshop.

The Copyright Office, in an attempt to grant copyright protection, asked Allen to disclaim the portions of the image that were generated by Midjourney. When he declined to do so, the office rejected his application.

On Tuesday, the Copyright Review Board upheld this decision, asserting that the image as a whole was not eligible for copyright protection due to containing more than a minimal amount of AI-generated content. Furthermore, the office rejected Allen’s argument that denying copyrights for AI-generated material could create an unsettling void of ownership for creators.