Suppose I use an artificial intelligence (AI) program to create a picture of a famous person (e.g. a politician or movie star), Suppose I then use the picture in an article or book in a manner that isn't defamatory and doesn't violate the person's publicity rights. Let's say it's a political cartoon that is insulting, but it falls within fair use.

If I use a commercial service (e.g. Shutterstock) to create the picture, then my understanding is they would own the copyright, whether I modify the picture or not.

Question: If I use a non-commercial service, would the picture be in the public domain? If so, I'm assuming I could claim copyright if I substantially modified it, right?

1 Answer 1


There is no copyright in AI generated art

Copyright requires an author and authors have to be human. See Who if anyone owns copyright of algorithmically produced works?


You can, of course, modify an uncopyrighted work. Whether the modified work is subject to copyright would depend on if the modifications rise to the level of an artistic work. That’s a pretty low bar but you could only sue if someone copied your changes, not if they copied the original parts of the image.

  • Wow, so if I buy an AI image from a commercial source, they technically don't have any rights to the image I created on their platform? I'm basically paying them for a service, and the finished image is in the public domain?
    – Paredon
    Sep 4, 2023 at 22:58
  • @Paredon yes, but the AI created image might still infringe on someone's copyright, e.g. "Draw Iron Man in Kirby's style" would infringe on the copyrights owned by the Jack Kirby Estate and/or Marvel
    – Trish
    Sep 5, 2023 at 9:12
  • @Trish no it wouldn’t. Drawing in someone’s “style” is not copyright infringement. Making a derivative work is.
    – Dale M
    Sep 5, 2023 at 9:50
  • @DaleM that wasn't what I meant to propose, but the problem is that you depict Iron Man. Kirby did draw Iron Man, such as Iron Man #95 [1977] - The AI should, if if follows the instructions to the letter, create an artwork that infringes on one of those comics. The "Jack Kirby Style" is meant as a subset of all the (official) Iron Man Artwork that there is. Official Iron Man artwork has many copyrights Marvel-owned (due to the character being Marvel owned). A specific artwork also might have Kirby rights that are infringed in addition.
    – Trish
    Sep 5, 2023 at 9:52
  • Wow, so much to learn - style vs derivatives, fair use vs estates . . . I'll be asking more questions. ;)
    – Paredon
    Sep 6, 2023 at 0:03

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