7 Critical Things You Need to Know About Copyright on AI Generated Content

Who Owns the Copyright on AI Generated Content? Keep yourself and your business out of legal trouble by understanding the…

By Ivana Taylor

Published on July 1, 2023

In This Article

AI generated content is saving all of us a ton of time and money. But beware — especially if you are using AI generated text and images to make money because…your AI generated content isn’t always protected by copyright!

Are you ready to explore the fascinating world of AI-generated content and copyright protection? Let’s dive into the 7 critical things you need to know about copyright on AI-generated content!

Short Summary

  • Navigating AI-generated content and copyright is complex, with no international consensus on legal standing.
  • Creators must understand their rights to protect against infringement & take ownership of copyright.
  • Proactive steps such as securing licenses are necessary for third party & international use to avoid disputes.

Copyright on AI Generated Content

black and white robot toy on red wooden table - copyright on ai generated content
Photo by Andrea De Santis on Unsplash

I recently did a short workshop on how to use AI to create all kinds of marketing content. And the obvious question came up — “Who owns the rights to AI generated content?”

Let’s face it, you can’t put the AI generators back in the box. Instead, as business owners, entrepreneurs and marketers who intend to make money from your content, you want to be crystal clear on what you have to do to make sure your content is clear for commercial use, and free to copyright if that’s what you want to do.

1. You can only copyright content that is created by a human.

For a work to be eligible for copyright protection, it must be an original work of authorship — by a human being.

Unlike traditional artworks, AI-generated images are not created by humans, but rather, they are the result of algorithms processing vast amounts of training data. Does this mean that AI-generated digital images also lack the originality and creativity required for copyright protection?

The answer is complex. While AI-generated images may lack human authorship, they can still display elements of creativity and originality. For example, the output of image generation by an AI model might be a unique combination of colors, shapes, and compositions that has never been seen before. However, the inherent lack of human input in the creative process raises questions about whether images generated by AI can ever truly be considered original works of authorship, eligible for copyright protection.

This, however, doesn’t mean that you can’t use this content commercially (to make money).

2. AI content and image creation tools like Midjourney, Jasper, Content at Scale give you a license for commercial use — but not always copyright.

Copyright automatically exists the moment you create something, without you having to lift a finger. It’s like a protective shield that covers your intellectual property.

On the other hand, licensing gives you the right to use copyrighted material commercially and make money from it. Licensing is typically granted by creators of products or intellectual property.

So, to be clear, 100% AI generated content (untouched by your intellect) is currently NOT protected by copyright.

3. You can only copyright content that has a significant amount of human input.

A recent Forbes article talked about a simple way to think about what qualifies as human creative input. Simply stop and think about the maxim “Give credit where credit is due.”

While some people think that AI developers or even prompt engineers could be considered copyright holders, the law says that only the final product can hold a copyright. For example, the work, the process and the testing that goes into creating the product is NOT covered by copyright. Only the output.

“Copyright does not protect “sweat of the brow.” Copyright also does not protect ideas or concepts; and the incident of copyrightability is agnostic with regard to the author’s intent, message, or methodology.” — David Newhoff

Ownership Dilemmas: Who Holds the Copyright?

copyright on ai generated content
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Ownership dilemmas are at the heart of the debate surrounding AI-generated content and copyright protection. Who should be considered the rightful copyright holder of AI-generated content – the AI developers and operators, the creators of training data, or perhaps even the AI itself? With no clear consensus on this issue, navigating the complex world of AI-generated content ownership can be a minefield for artists, developers, and content creators alike.

The legal implications of AI-generated content ownership are far-reaching and complex. Copyright laws are in place.

4. AI developers and operators are not copyright holders

Some argue that AI developers and operators should be considered the rightful copyright holders of AI-generated content. After all, they are responsible for creating the AI tools, algorithms, and software code that enable the generation of AI-generated content.

However, this perspective raises questions about whether AI-generated content is truly a product of human creativity and originality, or simply a byproduct of complex algorithms and artificial intelligence software code. Moreover, it is important for AI developers and operators to secure proper licenses for any copyrighted materials used in the AI training process to avoid potential infringement claims.

The Fine Line Between Fair Use and Copyright Infringement

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Photo by Nadine Shaabana on Unsplash

The distinction between fair use and copyright infringement is often unclear when it comes to AI-generated content. Fair use is a legal doctrine that allows limited use of copyrighted material without permission for certain purposes, such as criticism, commentary, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research.

5. Copyrighted content used to train AI models is considered “fair use”

According to Bloomberg Law, Current copyright holders do NOT have a case against OpenAI for using copyrighted data for training because this application falls under “fair use”. Assuming OpenAI copied any copyrighted works to its database, the intention was for training and not commercial use. Not only that, but OpenAI is also a non-profit. Hence it would fall under fair use.

6. Creators must have copyright ownership before using AI generated content

If you want to have both commercial and copyright ownership of your content, the end-product must be yours. No one has yet drawn a limit line, but the more your thoughts, choices, and intellectual property is included in the content, the more ownership you have.

In other words, you can use AI as an “assist” or tool, but you have to be the deciding factor in the content.

Here are a few examples:

  • If you connect an AI tool to your own personal drive where the AI would use your own personally created content to create MORE content — you own that.
  • If you use AI to brainstorm and help you create outlines or content that you then rewrite and customize significantly to the point that it’s now unique — you own that.
  • If you use AI to generate an image that you then edit, change, customize and turn into something new and different — you can own that.
  • If you’ve written a piece of content or created a video or audio piece of content and then use AI to rephrase, rewrite, or re-contextualize that content — you own that.

Protecting Your Rights in the Age of Generative AI

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Photo by Kaffeebart on Unsplash

You already know that AI tools use existing artists and writers to influence their output. For example, you can tell the Midjourney to create an image in the style of Salvador Dali. In this case, Salvador Dali is the style of art. So there had to have been a Salvador Dali in order to base the image from.

As new works of art or styles of art become famous enough to feed the training database, we can imagine that these “brands” will want to have their style and voice protected.

I’ve actually had some personal experience with this. As someone who has had more than 2,000 articles inside the training database up to November of 2021, I can actually tell ChatGPT to create content in “the style of Ivana Taylor, publisher of DIYMarketers.com).

Here’s a snippet from my own ChatGPT where I started by copying text from the web. I entered it into ChatGPT and then I told it to rewrite the text in my style.

example of using my brand voice in chatgpt

The result was very similar to my voice, but it was WAY overboard on the casual tone. And, the context of the output didn’t make sense for what I was writing.

BUT, it did give me a starting point from which to edit, rewrite, and further make it my own. In this case, I was using it to write this article, so there is NO copyrighted content involved here since I’m linking to the legal sources where I got my information.

My purpose here was to show you how to use AI as a jumping off point to create content that is 100% unique to my point of view.

7. Artists, brands, and experts must be diligent with copyrighting

I have to admit that I’ve been very lax about copyrighting my content. There is a copyright on the site, but I’ve noticed that I’ve NOT placed copyright labels on uniquely branded images or process infographics that I’ve posted online. This is a BIG no no.

If you are an expert, author, brand, or artist you must be diligent about copyrighting your unique content.

Copyright laws may not protect AI-generated content, but artists can still take steps to protect it.

As I mentioned above, anything that’s published online can be used to train AI models and that means that you will have to make sure that your unique content contains a copyright on it.

Legal remedies for artists

To protect their your in the face of AI-generated content, you need to be proactive in seeking legal remedies. This may include filing copyright infringement lawsuits, registering their works with the U.S. Copyright Office, and establishing licensing agreements to ensure proper use of their works.

By taking these steps, you can protect your rights and ensure that your creative works are not misused or infringed on by AI-generated content.

Practical Steps for Navigating AI-Generated Content and Copyright

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Photo by Lindsay Henwood on Unsplash

Navigating the complex world of AI-generated content and copyright requires practical steps and a thorough understanding of the legal landscape. By ensuring ownership of copyright, addressing infringement concerns, and considering legal implications for third-party and international use, creators can successfully navigate the many legal challenges being posed by AI-generated content and protect their rights in the digital age.

Ensuring ownership of copyright

To ensure ownership of copyright for AI-generated content, creators must first understand the legal landscape surrounding AI-generated content and copyright protection. This may involve researching national and international copyright laws, securing proper licenses for any copyrighted materials used in AI training data, and staying informed about potential legal reforms and developments in the field of AI-generated content.

By taking these steps, creators can ensure that they have the necessary copyright ownership before using AI-generated content and avoid potential legal disputes.

Addressing infringement concerns

Infringement concerns must be addressed to avoid legal issues when using AI-generated content. Creators should be vigilant in monitoring the use of their works in AI training data, and be prepared to take legal action if necessary.

Additionally, creators should consider licensing agreements and other legal mechanisms to ensure that their works are used appropriately and in accordance with copyright laws. By proactively addressing infringement concerns, creators can protect their rights and minimize the risk of legal disputes related to AI-generated content.

Potential legal reforms to address ownership concerns

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Legal reforms may be necessary to address ownership concerns surrounding AI-generated content. One potential solution could involve recognizing the creators of training data as copyright owners, giving them the same rights as other copyright owners and allowing them to take legal action against infringement.

Additionally, legal reforms could clarify the roles and responsibilities of AI developers and operators, as well as the legal standing of AI as a creator. As the world of AI-generated content continues to evolve, it is crucial for legal systems to adapt and address the unique challenges it presents, including the need for stability AI solutions.


As AI-generated content becomes more pervasive, people who make art, create software, and make other content must decide who owns the rights to it. This can be a hard thing to figure out. It is important to know about the different laws that protect content creators. This includes understanding how fair use works and making sure people are not using other people’s content without permission.

As you can see, this is getting complicated. To keep things simple, all you have to do is repeat the copyright mantra — give credit where credit is due. So the next time you create something, just ask yourself “Who should get the credit for this?”

Frequently Asked Questions

Can AI generated content be copyrighted?

The U.S. Copyright Office has announced that it is open to granting copyrights to AI-generated work on a “case-by-case” basis, but there are several conditions involved

The current practice states that content that is created primarily by AI cannot be copyrighted. If you create a piece of content or art that has a clear delineation between what the AI created and what you created, only the content you created can be copyrighted.

Does Midjourney own the rights to the images?

As a paying member of Midjourney, you are free to use any images commercially.

Can AI prompts be copyrighted?

No. Primarily because copyright protection is for completed works created by a human being. Copyright doesn’t cover the hours involved in creating the work, nor does it protect the work, testing, or process to get to the result.

Can I monetize AI-generated content without violating copyright laws?

Yes. Tools like Midjourney and Jasper.ai allow you to create art that is available for commercial use. BUT, overall, AI-generated images are NOT protected by copyright.

Can I copyright AI output that I’ve edited?

Yes. This is considered hybrid content. If the content created by humans is separated from the content created by AI, then only the human content will be copyrighted. For example, a book where the human writes the text and the AI creates the images.

Do current copyright holders have a case against OpenAI for using copyrighted material in training the database?

Current copyright holders do NOT have a case against OpenAI for using copyrighted data for training because this application falls under “fair use”. Assuming OpenAI copied any copyrighted works to its database, the intention was for training and not commercial use. Not only that, but OpenAI is also a non-profit. Hence it would fall under fair use.