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Is Selling AI Generated Art Legal? Knowing AI Copyright Law

Updated: Jun 7

Is Selling AI Generated Art Legal

The Burning Question

I hear this question asked a lot and the answer is YES, you can legally sell AI generated art. With AI generated art gaining popularity, it's crucial to understand the legal implications surrounding the sale of such artwork. In this article, we will shed light on why it is legal to do so, what pitfalls to avoid and the key considerations involved.

AI Ethics Driving the Debate

AI art is transforming the creative landscape, sparking significant ethical debates. Generative AI models enable effortless creation of stunning artwork, raising concerns about human artistic value and compensation. This new medium challenges traditional notions by allowing anyone to produce high-quality art with simple text prompts, undermining the necessity of years of training and innate talent. The central ethical controversy involves whether AI art constitutes inspiration or infringement, as these models are trained on vast datasets of existing works without compensating the original artists.

Despite these challenges, AI art presents exciting possibilities for both novice and professional artists. Tools like DALL-E and Midjourney democratize creativity, enabling users to generate impressive visuals quickly. This shift echoes past technological revolutions that redefined art and creativity, offering new avenues for exploration and expression. However, the ethical implications, including potential copyright infringement, workforce impact, and the underpaid labor of data labelers, must be carefully navigated. Open dialogue and proactive efforts to uphold ethical standards are crucial as AI continues to reshape the art world. To learn more you can check out the article, The Ethics of AI Art: Addressing The AI Generated Elephant in The Room.

Facts About Selling AI Art

One of the primary concerns when selling AI generated art is determining copyright ownership. In most jurisdictions, copyright is granted to the creator of the artwork. However, when AI algorithms are involved in generating the art, the ownership can become complex. Generally, if a human artist utilizes AI tools as a mere tool or collaborates with AI, they retain the copyright. But when AI creates art independently this is where the US Copywrite Office has explicitly stated that, the “human authorship” element is lacking and is wholly necessary to obtain a copyright. Because these works lack the creative input of a human author and are therefore not eligible for copyright protection, such works are generally considered to be in the public domain, meaning that they are freely available for use and reproduction without restriction.

What to Know

When selling AI generated art, it is crucial to ensure that the artwork does not infringe upon any intellectual property rights. This is where things could go wrong. AI algorithms can learn from existing copyrighted works, potentially leading to unintentional infringement. Artists and sellers must exercise caution to avoid using copyrighted material as the basis for AI generated creations, as this could lead to legal consequences.

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With that said, commercial use of AI generated art is permitted since AI art does not receive automatic copyright protection. This means that anyone can use AI art created online for commercial purposes and as a result, numerous individuals and small business owners are already utilizing AI art to generate revenue. For more information on how this is being done, you can read this article on Monetizing Creativity: Can You Sell AI Generated Art Successfully?

Recent Rulings on AI Art Lawsuits

selling ai generated art lady justice

Knowing where the law stands on these issues is significant in understanding what you can and can not do. Recently a federal judge dismissed a substantial portion of Sarah Silverman's lawsuit against Meta, emphasizing the unauthorized use of copyrighted books to train its generative AI model. This marks the second ruling favoring AI firms in novel intellectual property disputes. U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria dismissed the lawsuit, deeming the claims "nonsensical" and asserting “There is no way to understand the LLaMA models themselves as a recasting or adaptation of any of the plaintiffs’ books.” Additionally, U.S. District Judge William Orrick delivered another blow to fundamental contentions in separate AI art lawsuits, questioning the ability of artists to substantiate copyright infringement in the absence of identical material created by AI tools. The judge deemed the allegations "defective in numerous respects", setting a precedent for future legal considerations in the intersection of AI and intellectual property.

Who Owns Artificial Intelligence Created Art

The Copyright Office Compendium is a comprehensive guide to the policies and procedures that govern copyright registration in the United States. One of the explicit guidelines stated in the compendium is that works created by nature, animals, or plants cannot be registered. This also includes any works produced by a machine or mere mechanical process that operates randomly or automatically without any creative input or intervention from a human author. The reason behind this guideline is simple: copyright law protects creative works that are the product of human authorship. The law is intended to provide exclusive rights to the creators of original works, such as authors, artists, musicians, and filmmakers.

So can you copyright AI-generated content? The answer is NO. The US Copywrite Office in early 2022 upheld its 2019 ruling that the “human authorship” element was lacking and was wholly necessary to obtain a copyright. Although U.S. copyright law does not establish clear guidelines for non-human entities, case precedent has led courts to be “consistent in finding that non-human expression is ineligible for copyright protection,” the board stated in its decision.

Final Thoughts

As AI generated art gains traction in the art market, the legal landscape surrounding its sale could still change. But for now, while these creations may be fascinating and impressive in their own right, they do not meet the standard of originality required for copyright protection. I'm not a lawyer and this article is for entertainment purposes only, so in order to navigate this emerging field successfully, artists, buyers, and anyone selling AI art in general must stay informed about the evolving legal framework.

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If you'd like to know more you can head over to for a curated collection of today's most popular, most liked AI artwork from across the internet. Plus explore an extensive array of AI tools, complemented by comprehensive guides and reviews, on our AI blog.


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