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Copyright in the digital world: What’s next for AI image generators?

The use of AI image generators has become an increasingly important factor in copyright law in recent years. This technology allows people to create artificial imagery that looks as realistic as possible. It is mainly used in advertising, video games and visual effects in movies. In the digital world, it is therefore more difficult than ever to protect the intellectual property rights of the author. Therefore, it is important to understand exactly how AI image generators work and what this means for the future of copyright. Image generators are machine learning algorithms that routinely generate images. This technology is based on the principle of neural networks: The generator analyzes certain images and then tries to generate similar images. It can create both real and abstract images. Using AI image generators, humans can create a variety of graphics, logo designs or backgrounds.

Most AI image generators are open source software, so anyone can use them. However, there are also commercial programs and SaaS providers with more features and better quality. These programs offer more flexibility in creating images and are suitable for professional applications. Some companies have been using AI image generators for their products and services for some time. It helps them save time and reduce costs by allowing them to use pre-made visual material or generate new material themselves. Due to continued technological advancements, AI image generators will most likely become even more prevalent soon – especially in areas such as advertising and the video game industry – where the creation of realistic visuals is a major contributor or cost.

However, as modern AI image generators are capable of delivering authentic visual content with high speed and accuracy, this poses a challenge for copyright law. Therefore, it is necessary to think about measures against the unauthorized use of generated material; this concerns not only the protection of the intellectual property of the author, but also the protection of other rights holders from the misuse of their work by generating copies without authorization or royalty . It is therefore advisable that companies adapt their policies for the use of generated material and take all necessary steps to ensure that all accruing rights are respected.

What is copyright?

Copyright is an important area of law that allows owners to make decisions about their use of works. It protects the artist’s creative rights and provides a financial incentive for the creation of new works. In the digital world, however, copyright law has become increasingly complex in recent years. One of the biggest problems with using AI image generators is that it is very difficult to predict who will be the actual creator of the image – if, in purely legal terms, there is a creator at all. Because different AI algorithms are used in generating images, it can be difficult to determine which artist or company even holds a copyright or exploitation right – or whether a copyright exists at all. This poses a serious challenge to those trying to adhere to the strict rules of copyright law.

Many experts agree that new ways must be found to address this issue, taking into account all stakeholders. Some suggestions include the creation of a special registration for AI-generated images or corresponding licensing models for artists and companies. Others also argue for breaking down traditional legal frameworks and creating new forms of copyright to ensure the protection of creativity and innovation with respect to AI-based technologies. However, it is clear that more research and innovation is needed before such ideas can be advanced. Developing effective approaches to copyright for AI-generated images is therefore imperative. Only in this way can all stakeholders know that their interests are safeguarded in terms of creative work and innovation.

AI and image generators

Recently, the development of AI image generators has taken a great leap forward. This technology makes it possible to generate images based on mathematical models and algorithms. This can also help foster creativity and innovation in the digital world. But what does that mean for copyright? There are some legal issues that still need to be resolved. For example, it is unclear who should be the copyright owner of such generated images and thus who can exercise the exploitation rights. Should this be owned by the generator operator or should the author or artist of the model on which the generator is based be considered the “owner”? There are many more unanswered questions related to AI image generators and copyright. So it is important to think about this issue and discuss possible solutions. One approach is to recognize the rights of the generator operator while ensuring that all individuals or organizations responsible for creating the model are adequately compensated. This can guarantee creators fair compensation for their work while creating opportunities for innovation. Another approach is to introduce specific legislation to regulate the use of AI image generators. This would help protect the rights of creators while facilitating the operation of such generators.

Using AI image generators is an exciting way to develop new ideas in the digital world. However, to ensure that all parties are treated fairly and that no copyrights are infringed, legal aspects must be taken into account. Therefore, both companies and regulators should discuss legal frameworks in close coordination and take appropriate measures. Nevertheless, AI image generators can be seen as a great way to develop new technologies in the digital world – taking into account all legal issues, of course!

How can AI image generators infringe copyright?

AI image generators may infringe copyright by copying images without permission from their respective authors or by using images that are not freely available. The latter is particularly problematic because AI image generators are often based on images that are protected by copyright. For example, some AI image generators use images from Instagram or Pinterest. Such images are usually freely available only for a limited time or purpose. If an AI image generator uses such images to create its templates, it -possibly- violates copyright law. Another problem is that many AI image generators use photos that are not freely available. Some of these images come from social media and other websites where copying is usually not allowed. If an AI image generator uses such images to create its templates, it is almost certainly in violation of copyright law. However, there are no judgments on this yet. In the USA, however, there are initial attempts to enforce such claims.

Legal consequences for users of AI images

In a digital world where AI image generators are increasingly used, the question arises as to what the legal consequences are for users of such images. First and foremost, users must take care not to infringe copyright on AI images. In addition, warnings or lawsuits may also be issued if AI images are used without the consent of the author or holder of the exploitation rights. To avoid unauthorized use, users must verify that the original image creators have the right to use their work. When using AI images, it is therefore important to ensure that all relevant rights holders have given their consent in advance. Another problem with using AI images is the risk of plagiarism. When images are generated with AI, there is a risk that they will be inadvertently modeled on existing works, thus reproducing copyrighted works. Again, it is advisable for users of such images to take the precaution of asking the copyright holders for permission and ensuring that no unauthorized copy is made. Virtually impossible with SaaS providers 😉

So it’s up to all stakeholders – creators as well as providers and users – to ensure that copyright is respected in AI image generators. This is the only way to minimize legal uncertainty and avoid negative consequences for all sides. However, as this technological field evolves, the extent to which other areas of copyright will be affected – such as licensing of images or liability when sharing content on social networks – remains to be seen. It remains to be seen what new developments await us here and what effect this will have on the handling of copyright in the digital world.


In recent years, AI image generators have continued to evolve. By using AI, images can now be made even more detailed and realistic than before. However, there are also some legal issues that arise from these new technologies. For example, it is hardly possible to determine the rights chain of these images anymore. The rights to the generated images themselves are also often unclear. Another challenge is that many AI image generators do not operate transparently. It is therefore difficult to find out which data is used and what impact this has on the result. Overall, then, AI image generators are an exciting new technology, but one that needs further development before it can be widely used.

Marian Härtel

Marian Härtel

Marian Härtel is a lawyer and entrepreneur specializing in copyright law, competition law and IT/IP law, with a focus on games, esports, media and blockchain.

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