Who owns the copyright to an AI-generated image?

by | Jun 1, 2023 | Legal | 0 comments

With the advent of artificial intelligence, the right to intellectual property is seeing its barriers thinned. What about AI-generated images? Who owns the copyright on images created by AI?

In this article, we’ll discuss whether images generated by IA are free of copyright, whether they can be used freely in a commercial context. Finally, we’ll look at the legislation and responsibilities involved in using AI for a copyrighted image without permission.

Are AI-generated images royalty-free?

When it comes to AI-generated images, the question of intellectual property arises and can be tricky. Indeed, not every AI-generated image is automatically considered royalty-free.

The main players involved in the creation and copyright ownership of an AI-generated image

Who owns the copyright to an AI-generated image?

Concerning an image created by AI, 3 main factors are involved in copyright ownership. These are :

  • The AI itself. In some cases, it is worth considering whether an AI can be considered a legal author and thus hold copyright. In most legal systems, copyright is granted to creations by human beings. But with the expansion of AIs, copyright ownership by an AI can be envisaged;
  • The creator or owner of the AI. If a physical or legal entity created or owns the AI, it can claim copyright generated by the AI’s creations, including generated images;
  • The owner of the training data. If the AI has been trained from a specific data set, the owner of this data can also claim certain rights to the AI’s creations, including the images.

Since either party can obtain copyright, in whole or in part, we need to look at the criteria determining copyright ownership.

What criteria determine copyright ownership for an AI-generated image?

These criteria, which vary according to country legislation, may take into account:

  • The degree of human contribution may be a criterion for assigning copyright to the AI image;
  • The contractual agreements between the parties involved in the creation or use of the AI. These agreements may determine copyright ownership of the images generated ;
  • Local copyright and intellectual property laws

Can an AI-generated image be used for commercial purposes?

Once again, the answer to this question will depend on the situation. Some AI programming allows distribution of generated images in a commercial setting, others require licenses and/or permissions.

Who is responsible if the AI uses an existing copyrighted image?

It sometimes happens that the AI uses an iimage protected by copyright. In this specific case, we can question the responsibility of the main actors involved in the creation of said generated image.

Legal obligations of AI developers or owners


AI developers are considered primarily responsible if their AI program uses a copyrighted image without authorization. From an ethical and legal point of view, they must design and program the AI in such a way as to respect copyright and avoid unauthorized use of protected images.

The AI owners, for their part (companies, organizations or individuals), can also be held liable if the AI they own uses an image protected by copyright. As owners of the AI, they are responsible for ensuring that its use complies with copyright laws.

Reporting procedures for copyright holders whose images have been used without authorization by an AI

Copyright owners whose images have been used without authorization by an AI can use existing reporting procedures to enforce their rights. This can include copyright infringement notifications to the platforms where the AI is used, takedown requests or claims for compensation for damages.

Online platforms that use image-generating IA must also set up reporting mechanisms to enable copyright holders to report unauthorized uses of their images. These platforms may be required to promptly remove the images in question or take other steps to resolve copyright issues.

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