Copyright for architectural images in the AI age
Architecture is a reference discipline. From ziggurats, machines for living, to contemporary biophilic high-rise designs, it’s impossible to know if ideas are truly novel or if they’ve been conceived before. Artificial intelligence has fueled the conversation about intellectual property (IP) even more. As millions create unique graphic works by typing keywords, controversies have arisen, particularly regarding the protection of creative works and architects’ copyright in their creations. Therefore, understanding the scope of what is protected helps determine whether licenses are sufficient, whether the long journey of trademark registration is worthwhile; or perhaps a graphic cannot be protected and is in the public domain.
Images can have multiple forms of copyright protection. Copyright for images and creative works is common, but trademark protection may be required when the image is used to identify the source of a particular product or service. Images can also be licensed, including the AI produced. On the other hand, images can have aspects that cannot be protected and are in the public domain, such as architectural and technical representations or standard elements such as doors, materials or structures.
The following section serves as a guide for creators on their copyright journey; Still, cases vary, so it can be helpful to work with a lawyer or legal counsel.
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Copyright and Trademarks
Copyright protects the rights of “creators” in their original creative works, including architectural and engineering drawings. The creator of a copyrighted work has the exclusive right to reproduce (print or copy) the creative content. Registration is optional but strongly recommended. It provides the author with legal benefits, including the ability to enforce copyright against infringers in court. While copyright protects original works, a trademark protects elements that distinguish or identify one particular company from another. A trademark is a symbol, word, logo, or color that identifies the source of a product or service.
Trademark laws differ from country to country. For example, Colombia allows architects “not to associate their name with modified work, including plans and graphics”, while in Europe the right to the integrity of a work includes protection against unauthorized material alterations or damage to the author’s reputation. Namely, while there are no restrictions on tourists photographing Santiago Calatrava’s Auditorio de Tenerife in Spain, the image of the Auditorio has been trademarked. Since 2003, the SAU of Tenerife has required commercial operators to use their external premises for film and photography, and requires that the final product be cleared with the media department prior to release. A deposit is also required to ensure proper use of the images.
In any case of legal license, the protection of economic or moral rights requires legal services, which implies bureaucracy and money. In the case of piece reproduction, a license grants permission to a person or entity (“licensee”) to use a work of the copyright owner, usually in return for payment. Several organizations act as third parties, e.g. B. GNU General Public License, Creative Commons (CC), or help determine if a piece is in the public domain.
Third Party License
Creative Commons (CC) is an international network that offers attribution tools based on data collected from publicly available content repositories for use by anyone. An image (blueprints, illustrations, photos, or renderings) can be customized under six copyright licenses. For example, CC BY-NC permits re-users to distribute, remix, adapt and build upon the material in any medium or format for non-commercial use only; CC BY allows the material to be used in any medium or format as long as attribution is credited. However, CC is not a law firm, does not provide legal advice and is not a substitute for a law firm.
DALL-E and Mid Journey, the two main AI-powered image generators, use an artificial intelligence system trained on public datasets to create their assets. Such content may unintentionally resemble copyrighted material or trademarks; However, both have different approaches when it comes to IP protection.
Midjourney grants a license under the “Asset License” Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 to Non-Paying Members. This allows you to use the images as long as it doesn’t make a profit and as long as you give Midjourney credit (“Attribution”). With paid services, the image belongs to the creator, even if the piece is a remix of someone else’s work, which means someone else can also use your image as a basis for their experiments. But even if you have created a graphic piece and have all rights to use the images created by the service, Midjourney also retains its license to use your works, including sublicensing.
In DALL-E, users are granted full usage rights to any media they create on DALL-E 2, including rights to reprint, sell, and sell. However, it is unclear whether the images the platform uses to train its algorithms have been properly shared and legally authorized for that use.
What is not protected?
A graphic containing the “idea” of a skyscraper cannot be copyrighted. If so, only an architect could draw skyscrapers, and some words would be banned on AI platforms for legal reasons. As such, unprotected elements of a copyrighted image may be: (1) scènes à faire, e.g. a claim of graphic infringement of a skyline or distinctive scene; (2) ideas as opposed to expression, e.g., a roof chart; (3) facts and other public information; and (4) expressions that are indistinguishable from the underlying ideas, e.g. Geometry and representation of classical or modern architecture are recognized styles from which architects draw. Elements from styles are not protected.
Technology is fulfilling creative tasks more than ever, encouraging designers to engage with AI, and in the case of architecture, referencing and remembering are part of the discipline. For this reason, copyright laws in many jurisdictions remain open to interpretation when considering whether architecture, including pictorial material, should be protected in its own category. Perhaps separating architecture from “artistic works” and “graphic works” would develop another distinct branch in the discipline that could contribute to copyright laws in an era of artificial intelligence, inspiration, and plagiarism.