Cover of Zarya of the Dawn a comic of AI generated art.

AI Generated Comics and Copyright

by | Dec 21, 2022

The Copyright Office (USPTO) granted protection to Kris Kashtanova for the comic book titled Zarya of the Dawn in September. The comic was created using the text-to-image engine Midjourney and marked the first time the agency approved an application for an AI work. Then things changed.

What is the full story

So recently the writer Kris Kashtanova used Midjournery AI to generate all the images in a comic, and then just recently the U.S. Copyright Office appears to be backtracking on its decision to grant protection to an AI-generated comic book. now on the face of it this seems like a no-brainer of course he shouldn’t be able to copyright the images generated by a machine, no matter how carefully they were obliged to type the prompts in to get the images they desired for the story (no mean feat). 

However, there is a contentious element here for me, it looks like the USPTO is removing the copyright from the entire book including the writing. Now perhaps this isn’t the case and I’m misreading things but even in a comic book art and writing are two separate elements. Kashtanova didn’t use ChatGPT to write the story or text in the comic, that was his own work, the book should still be copyrighted to him even if the art isn’t his. 

It would be like me finding royalty free for use images online and then using them to illustrate my story, am I now in danger of losing my other rights, what about a talented painter who uses ChatGPT to help write a story with prompts and then paints the scenes, what happens to their rights? 

The future is going to get even messier

Sometimes it is hard to realize the incredible progress we’ve made in terms of cheap, accessible computing power and AI. Then something like this comes along and people are shocked, but this is really just the beginning of this, what we are witnessing is the tip of the AI glacier that is about crash down on society. 

In 10 years AI art generators will be an order of magnitude better, and our ability to prompt them with far more nuanced, faces, eyes, and body proportions are all hit or miss currently. In 10 or 20 years we’ll see fusions of deepfakes, art and media that will change a lot of industries, forever. 

Let’s take an example I love the film Scrooged so in 20 years I think hey let’s watch that, but you know I’ll make it a cartoon, like Arcane and add labelling to the action scenes like in Scott Pilgrim vs the World, maybe change out the bad guy for Alan Rickman. Then maybe 20/30 minutes later, I watch my new personalised version of Scrooged. 

That’s not hyperbole, that’s just where things are going to be on the route we’re currently heading. If you think that sounds crazy, remember that 20 years ago the best kind of phone you could have was a Nokia. 

 

Portrait digital art of Bill Murray from Scrooged (Arcane). wearing a suit, Christmas,

What’s next

I’m going to write more about this because it really interests me and as I study and learn about it I’ll keep a running commentary on my blog.

It’s the first time in a long time I’ve seen a subject that’s blown me away like this so hopefully, that will translate into me getting back into writing fiction, I’ll just have to be careful how I illustrate it I guess ;).