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China and U.S. Clash in Approach to AI Copyright Cases

A Chinese court ruled that an image created by an artificial intelligence (AI) platform is protectable by copyright law. The Beijing Internet Court determined that plaintiff Li is the copyright owner of images created using Stable Diffusion, a text-to-image AI generative platform. Li sued an individual named Liu for publishing the AI created image online without his permission, which he alleged, and the court agreed, amounted to copyright infringement.

The court was swayed to rule that the AI-created image was protectable under Chinese copyright laws because (1) the use of AI-powered tools is akin to other technology used to create art, like a camera and (2) Li provided the AI platform with “detailed descriptions” to create and then subsequently edit the image to reflect what Li had envisioned. Li claimed, and the court agreed, that he made an “intellectual investment” into the work by adjusting the image to create the final product. 

The court ruled that “when people use AI models to generate images, fundamentally, it is still humans using a tool for creation" and thus is protectable under copyright law. This is in stark contrast to the U.S. view on AI and copyright authorship. In a decision by the U.S. Copyright Office about an AI-generated comic book, the U.S. Copyright Office took the stance that AI-generated works are not protectable under U.S. Copyright law because it is not a work of human authorship (read more about that case here). This decision was further supported by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The D.C. Judge Beryl A. Howell held that “copyright has never stretched so far as to protect works generated by new forms of technology operating absent any guiding human hand.” 

The U.S. and Chinese courts have reached different conclusions when faced with similar cases. As laws around AI further develop, it will be interesting to see how the global legal landscape further fine tunes these issues as each jurisdiction approaches the advent of AI.


In a first ruling of its kind, a court in China has held that an image created using an artificial intelligence (“AI”) platform is subject to copyright protection, and thus, unauthorized use of the image amounts to infringement. That is what the Beijing Internet Court held late last month in a case that centered on an image that the plaintiff – who was identified by the surname Li – created using Stable Diffusion, an AI-powered text-to-image generate. Li filed suit in Beijing in May, alleging that the defendant – an individual with the surname Liu – published the image at issue on an online platform without his authorization, thereby, engaging in copyright infringement.


artificial intelligence, copyright, intellectual property, ai, ip