Suppose I create my own AI based program which is trained by input containing a set of similar images and then it spits out a cartoonified SVG representation of the thing in the input images.

For example: I feed the program with several random pictures of Eiffel tower from the internet, without caring if they were copyrighted or not. Some may be copyrighted, some may not. As a result I get the SVG image, say something like this: link (to Wikimedia's SVG of Eiffel tower). Is this copyright infringement?

In this case it is obvious that the final product represents the Eiffel tower, which is public architecture and as far as I know it should be okay, but it really isn't at all obvious whether I used some copyrighted picture in the generation process or not.

If I limited myself to generating only SVG's representing objects everyone could take a picture of in public (or drawn it for themself like: a tree, a lake, skyline of a city, public building, public monument etc.), how likely am I to end up being charged with copyright infringement?

  • +1. Not answering the question, but thisartworkdoesnotexist have trained an AI on copyright images and I think have not been sued for copyright infringement.
    – User65535
    Jun 13, 2022 at 14:41

1 Answer 1


We don't deal with probability estimates of lawsuits because (a) that would be giving legal advice and (b) it depends on many details that you didn't specify, such as the extent to which the copyright owner might monitor for infringement, or is inclined to sue. The question of whether the act is infringing, however, is fairly simple.

"Violating copyright" reduces to the act of creating an unauthorized copy or derivative work of a protected work. Photocopying a book is an example: it doesn't matter that there is a machine between you the actor who gets sued and the protected object. If you feed a protected work into a program which spits out some other kind of object – a "derivative work" – you still need permission.

There is an element of "getting away with" law-breaking in any copyright infringement. The person who has to sue you has to prove that it was their intellectual property that you illegally took. This is easiest in the case of text, and increasingly harder with visual and musical art. The plaintiff would argue – knowing the details of the program – that the specific output could only have been produced by feeding in their protected work. The defendant would counter-argue that various other works (protected or not) give the exact same output. So the argument gets bogged down in technical details; the legal situation is pretty straightforward.

  • 1
    I would say it is a bit more philosophical... I mean most of what every human does is a derivative of someone else's work in a way, derived using a special program - brain, so there really needs to be a limit to declaring something "derivative work". But in essence you answered my question, if they really want they can sue me, but since it would be really hard to prove, they'd lose. But it remains an interesting philosophical question: when humans create with a small amount of "copyrighted input" it's okay, but when a machine does it, then it's a derivative work..?
    – lojle
    Jun 13, 2022 at 22:54
  • You are creating the derivative work whether you use your bare hands or a computer program. The difficulty lies in distinguishing an impermissible derivative work from a permitted independent work that is "inspired by" a protected work.
    – user6726
    Jun 13, 2022 at 23:19

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