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Timeline: AI Legal Developments
Last updated February 26, 2023.
February 22, 2023
US Copyright Office overturns previous copyright decision, says AI-generated images aren’t copyrightable
The US Copyright Office has canceled copyright protection granted to comic book artist Kristina Kashtanova for the images in her comic book Zarya of the Dawn, which were created using AI image generator Midjourney. The office said Kashtanova "is the author of the work's text as well as the selection, coordination, and arrangement of the work's written and visual elements", but that the images were not the product of human authorship. Kashtanova's lawyer disagreed, saying the decision showed a misunderstanding of the role randomness played in the AI's image generation.
February 15, 2023
Consumers file class-action lawsuit against Prisma Labs, creator of AI-avatar app Lensa
A proposed class-action lawsuit has been filed against Prisma Labs, the company behind Lensa A.I., an artificial intelligence image-generating app that creates custom avatars by collecting, storing, and using users' biometric identifiers. The plaintiffs argue that Prisma has failed to inform users about the collection of their facial geometry and how it will be stored and destroyed as required by the Biometric Information and Privacy Act (BIPA) of Illinois. They allege that Prisma has violated several sections of the BIPA and is seeking damages and equitable, injunctive, and declaratory relief. Prisma Labs stated that the allegations are baseless and that it intends to vigorously defend against them.
February 6, 2023
Getty Images sues Stable Diffusion in the US
Getty Images has filed a lawsuit in Delaware against artificial intelligence (startup Stability AI for allegedly copying more than 12 million images from its database without permission or compensation. Getty Images is claiming copyright and trademark infringement on a large scale. It is the latest legal clash between creators of AI art generators and rights-holders. AI art tools use illustrations, artwork and photographs as training data, which are often scraped from the web without the creator’s consent. Experts said Getty Images has a stronger case than a lawsuit brought by a trio of artists against Stability AI.
February 3, 2023
Italy bans U.S.-based AI chatbot Replika from using personal data
Italy's Data Protection Agency has banned Replika, a San Francisco-based AI chatbot company, from using the personal data of Italian users due to risks to minors and emotionally fragile people. Replika provides free customized avatars that talk and listen to users and earns around $2 million per month from selling bonus features. The Italian watchdog cited the absence of an age-verification mechanism as a breach of European privacy regulations and highlighted the risks of the AI-based service to vulnerable groups. The company's developer, Luka Inc, could face a fine of up to €20m ($21.80m) or 4% of its global annual turnover.
January 28, 2023
Microsoft, GitHub, and OpenAI ask court to throw out AI copyright lawsuit
Microsoft, GitHub, and OpenAI have filed a motion to dismiss a proposed class action lawsuit alleging that the companies used scraped code to create GitHub's AI-powered Copilot tool. The motion claims that the lawsuit lacks "injury" and "viable claim," and that the plaintiffs rely on hypothetical events to make their case. Microsoft and GitHub argue that the tool generates suggestions based on the body of knowledge gleaned from public code, and that the plaintiffs are asking for a "multi-billion dollar windfall" in relation to software that they willingly share as open source. A court hearing to dismiss the suit will take place in May.
January 17, 2023
Getty Images sues Stable Diffusion in the UK
Getty Images is suing Stability AI, the creators of the AI art tool Stable Diffusion, alleging that the company unlawfully copied and processed millions of images protected by copyright to train its software. Getty Images believes that Stability AI’s commercial offering was built using the intellectual property of others without permission or consideration. Getty Images has commenced legal proceedings in the High Court of Justice in London. The lawsuit marks an escalation in the developing legal battle between AI firms and content creators for credit, profit, and the future direction of the creative industries.
January 16, 2023
Artists file class-action lawsuit against Stable Diffusion and Midjourney
Artists Sarah Andersen, Kelly McKernan, and Karla Ortiz have filed a lawsuit against AI art generators Stable Diffusion and Midjourney, artist portfolio platform DeviantArt, and their creators, alleging that their AI tools have been trained on copyrighted images collected from the web without the original artists' consent. The lawsuit, filed by lawyer Matthew Butterick and the Joseph Saveri Law Firm, argues that the use of such images has infringed the rights of millions of artists. The lawsuit is part of a wider trend of concern among artists and art communities regarding AI art generators, which are trained on copyrighted data, though the legality of such actions remains uncertain.
December 6, 2022
EU regulators approve the Artificial Intelligence Act
The AI Act is a proposed European law on artificial intelligence (AI) – the first law on AI by a major regulator anywhere. The law assigns applications of AI to three risk categories. First, applications and systems that create an unacceptable risk, such as government-run social scoring of the type used in China, are banned. Second, high-risk applications, such as a CV-scanning tool that ranks job applicants, are subject to specific legal requirements. Lastly, applications not explicitly banned or listed as high-risk are largely left unregulated.
November 3, 2022
Programmers file class-action lawsuit against Microsoft, GitHub, and OpenAI
Microsoft, GitHub, and OpenAI are facing a proposed class-action lawsuit over their creation of GitHub Copilot, an AI-powered coding assistant. The lawsuit claims that Copilot relies on "software piracy on an unprecedented scale" by using copyrighted code without giving credit to its creators. Copilot is trained on public repositories of code scraped from the web, many of which are published with licenses that require credit for reuse. The case is in its early stages and has yet to be certified as a class-action lawsuit.
September 15, 2022
US Copyright Office grants copyright for AI-generated art (to a human)
New York-based artist Kris Kashtanova has become the first artist to receive US copyright registration for a graphic novel that features AI-generated artwork created by latent diffusion AI. The graphic novel, called Zarya of the Dawn, was created using the Midjourney commercial image synthesis service, but Kashtanova wrote the comic book story, created the layout, and made artistic choices to piece the images together. This is the first known instance of an artist registering a copyright for art created by the recent round of image synthesis models powered by latent diffusion.
February 14, 2022
US Copyright Office says AI cannot copyright works of art
The US Copyright Office has rejected a request to allow an AI to copyright a work of art, stating that an element of "human authorship" is a necessary standard for protection. The decision came after Steven Thaler attempted to copyright an image created by an algorithm he called Creativity Machine. The board's ruling highlights the importance of human agency in machine-produced works, and may be tested as AI continues to become a bigger part of artists' repertoires. However, it does not necessarily mean that any art with an AI component is ineligible for copyright protection.