On Monday, the Beijing Internet Court held that a human plaintiff prompt is sufficient to invoke copyright protection in a Stable Diffusion generated image, so long as the output qualifies as an “original” work. Copyright is determined on a case by case basis, so this decision is not entirely inconsistent with other AI jurisprudence trends favouring human input, as we saw in the US Thaler v. Perlmutter decision denying copyright registration for a work created absent any human involvement. In the Beijing case, there was sufficient human involvement in the form of words and a specific combination thereof thought up by the plaintiff which became the the basis of enforceable copyright in artificially generated images.
Last February, in Zarya of the Dawn (Registration # VAu001480196) in response to a registration request for a comic book made with Midjourney generated images, the U.S. Copyright Office also recognized that the registrant is the author of the Work’s text as well as the selection, coordination, and arrangement of the Work’s written and visual elements, however fell short of recognizing copyright in the comic book’s images, because the current registration for the Work did not disclose its Midjourney-generated content”, so a new certificate of registration was issued that covers only the expressive material created by the registrant. Having looked at the comic book, I believe that the new certificate indeed covers all the copyright there is to cover in this comic book. The same comic book could use an entirely different set of AI generated images and would still qualify as the same work. It is also possible at the face of the Copyright Office Decision that, had the registrant disclosed the use of AI generated software, the certificate would have covered those images as well. So from my perspective, there are no flagrant inconsistencies in the US and China cases involving AI generated works.
Beijing Case Background
The plaintiff, Mr. Li, used Stable Diffusion to generate the image involved in the case by inputting prompt words and published it on the Xiaohongshu platform under the name “Spring Breeze Brings Tenderness”. A week later, the defendant, a blogger on Baijiahao, removed plaintiff’s signature watermark from plaintiff’s AI generated image and used it to accompany their article “Love in March, in the Peach Blossom”. The plaintiff sued claiming that the defendant did not obtain the plaintiff’s permission and given the removed signature causing users to mistakenly believe that the defendant was the author of the work, which seriously violated the plaintiff’s right of attribution and information network dissemination rights.
The Court held that the artificial intelligence-generated image involved in the case met the requirements of “originality” and reflected a human’s original intellectual investment and should be recognized as works and protected by copyright law. The Court stated that from the time the plaintiff conceived the image involved in the case to the final selection of the image involved, the plaintiff made a certain amount of intellectual investment, such as designing the presentation of characters, selecting prompt words, arranging the order of prompt words, and setting relevant parameters and so on which reflected the plaintiff’s choice and arrangement on a continuum of time. It didn’t happen from a first try. The images involved in the case reflected the plaintiff’s important intellectual investment, aesthetic choices and personal judgments, and in that regard the images involved in the case met the requirements of “intellectual achievements.”
The pictures involved were not just “mechanical intellectual achievements.” In the absence of contrary evidence, the court concluded that the images involved in the case were independently completed by the plaintiff and reflected the plaintiff’s personalized expression, for the images involved in the case to meet the requirements of “originality.”
The Court awarded 500 RMB ($96CAD) to the plaintiff in damages and costs of 50 RMB.
The full decision courtesy of 知产库 is available here (Chinese only).