Beijing Court Awards AI Image Copyright Status

AI Image in China
The AI images at the center of the dispute. | Mr Li

A court in Beijing, China has awarded an AI image copyright status after the person who made the picture sued a blogger for using it without permission.

A man known only as Mr Li made the picture of a young woman by using the AI image generator Stable Diffusion. After posting it to the Chinese social media platform Xiaohongshu (Little Red Book in English), it was lifted by a blogger named Ms Liu who apparently removed all of Mr Li’s watermarks and ID.

Mr Li took Ms Liu to the Beijing Internet Court for copyright infringement, Ms Liu was ordered to pay $70 (CN¥500) in damages plus costs of $7 (CN¥50).

According to TechnoLlama, the court had to decide whether the AI image was copyrightable and in this case, Judge Zhu Ge ruled that it does meet the criteria because the picture contains Mr Li’s intellectual contributions and aesthetic choices.

The court also decided that Mr Li was the author — not the maker of Stable Diffusion, Stability AI — because Li had provided significant input into the picture and added his own personal expression.

“From the time when the plaintiff conceived the picture involved in the case to the final selection of the picture involved, the plaintiff has made a certain amount of intellectual investment,” says the court in its ruling.

“Such as designing the presentation of characters, selecting prompt words, and arranging The order of prompt words, setting relevant parameters, selecting which picture meets expectations, etc. The picture involved reflects the plaintiff’s intellectual investment, so the picture involved meets the requirements of ‘intellectual achievement’.”

What Does it Mean?

The Beijing Internet Court is far from the the most powerful court in the land; in fact, there is a specialized IP (intellectual property) court in China and Andres Guadamuz of TechnoLlama points out that the court’s decision could “easily be reversed or ignored by other courts.”

However, it is interesting that Judge Zhu Ge made the ruling with the emerging industry of generative AI in mind. According to the South China Morning Post, Judge Ge says that she hopes the decision will serve as a reference for future disputes.