As generative AI tools continue to expand into various fields and integrated into different ad creation platforms, the question of legal copyright over the usage of generative content looms over everything, as various organizations try to formulate a new way to advance on this front.

As things stand right now, brands and individuals can use generative AI content in virtually any way they want, creating pretty much anything they can via these evolving systems. Technically, that content didn’t exist before the user typed in their prompt, so the ‘creator’ in a legal context would be the one who put in said query.

Legally Artificial

This is now also up for debate. The US Copyright Office says that AI-generated images actually can’t be copyrighted at all, as an element of ‘human authorship’ is required for such provision. In this sense, there might not really be a ‘creator’, which, in itself, already sounds like a legal minefield.

Right now, technically, this is how legal provisions stand on this front, while a range of artists are seeking changes to protect their copyrighted works, with the incredibly litigious music industry now also entering the fray, after the AI-generated track by Drake gained major notoriety online.

True enough, the National Publishers Association has already issued an open letter that implores Congress to review the legality of allowing AI models to train on human-created musical works. As they should – the ‘track’ mentioned above sounds nothing like Drake, thus, on all accounts, impinging on his copyright as it wouldn’t have gained its popularity without sounding like his distinct voice and style. There does seem to be some legal basis here, as there is in many of the reported cases thus far. Simply put, however, the law hasn’t caught up to the usage of generative AI tools, and there’s no definitive legal instrument to stop people from creating, and profiting from AI-generated works, regardless of their level of derivation.

And all of this is beside the misinformation and misunderstanding that’s also being sparked by these increasingly convincing AI-generated images. There have already been several major cases where AI-generated visuals have been so convincing that they’ve sparked confusion, and even going as far as impacting stock prices. For example, a lot questioned the authenticity of ‘The Pope in A Puffer Jacket’. Even more recently, generative AI has caused a hoax of the Pentagon exploding to spread online.

In all of these cases, the concern, besides just copyright infringement, is that people soon won’t be able to differentiate between authentic, created content, and what came from AI. As these tools get better at essentially deriving human works, the more the lines of creativity get blurred, which will no doubt lead to certain conflicts of interest. Microsoft, specifically, looks to address this by adding cryptographic watermarks on all the images generated by its AI tools. Microsoft is also working with the Coalition for Content Provenance and Authority (C2PA) to add an extra level of transparency to AI-generated images by ensuring that all of its generative elements have watermarks built into their metadata.

However, this can be largely negated by using screenshots, or other means that strip the core data coding. It’s another measure, granted, and a potentially important one, but there simply aren’t systems in place yet to ensure the total detection of AI-generated images, nor the legal basis of enforcing infringement within such, despite the presence of identifying markers.

The Wrap

It’s currently impossible to know what this will mean for the future, but AI endorsements, like the fake Ryan Reynolds Tesla ad, are a prime target for legal reproach. The material in the video has been pulled from its original source, suggesting that you can replicate a famous person’s likeness without much legal repercussions. However, lines are being drawn and provisions are being set in place.

With the music industry now also on alert, it won’t be surprising if new rules pop up that will restrict what can be done with generative AI tools in this respect. For minor elements (i.e. backgrounds, etc.), then you can freely use generative AI, legally, within your business content.