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Sarah Maas’ book cover for House of Earth and Blood is AI artwork. Does it get a US copyright?

No industry is immune from the potential disruption and job displacement by AI. Goldman Sachs predicts up to 300 million jobs could be displaced by AI. Scary.

Today, we’re seeing the book publishing industry starting to rely on AI-generated artworks. Bloomsbury Publishing, a big independent publisher, is publishing the UK version of Sara J. Maas’ bestseller House of Earth and Blood with an image of a wolf from Adobe Stock images, which discloses that the image of the wolf was “generated with AI” by the artist Aperture Vintage.

Of course, Aperture Vintage is a human artist. So, Bloomsbury’s use of the stock artwork hasn’t directly replaced any artist’s job, such as would be the case if one of Bloomsbury’s employees who isn’t an artist generated the same image using a text-to-image generator.

But there’s nothing to prevent publishers from doing so in the future, except the potential backlash from artists. This issue is one that societies will have to confront.

Is the book cover for the UK version of house of earth and Blood copyrightable in the United States?

One of the more intriguing aspects of Bloomsbury’s use of an AI-generated image in the cover is that it probably isn’t copyrightable, at least not under the U.S. Copyright Office’s guidance on AI generated works. As I explained in an Op-Ed in the Washington Post, I think the Copyright Office legal position is wrong. But unless (and hopefully until) the courts’ overturn it, it will remain the prevailing approach to AI-generated works in the United States.

Of course, Bloomsbury is selling a different version of the book with a different cover in the United States. Presumably, the cover was created by a human without AI assistance. Even if the UK cover might not be eligible for copyright in the U.S., those copies aren’t being sold. Plus, it’s common for people to freely post an image of a book cover to promote the book. So Bloomsbury and Maas both benefit by the widespread dissemination of the book cover online, both the US and UK versions.

This article was cross-posted on Nou AI Art.

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