Unlock the AI and Copyright Puzzle: Who Owns Your AI Content?

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Julia McCoy

Creator and Co-founder

ai and copyright

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has opened up countless possibilities for content creators to create unique pieces of work quickly and easily — but what happens when it comes to AI and copyright?

AI-generated content can blur the line between who owns what.

Ultimately, who owns the copyright if an AI created your work?

Is it you, the content creator guiding the AI tool?…

Or is it the developer/owner of that AI tool you’re using? 🤯

Let’s dive into how this plays out in the U.S. and further abroad, as well as explore who ultimately holds ownership over these works created with AI assistance.

Let’s take a look at AI and copyright to make sure you own the work you produce when all is said and done.

AI & Copyright Table of Contents

Watch Me Explain AI and Copyright

AI and Copyright: Who Owns the Rights to AI-Generated Content?

The U.S. Copyright Office holds the position that any work created exclusively by an AI can’t be registered for copyright.

It sounds like a Catch-22:

You create content using AI technology. But AI output can’t be copyrighted, so you don’t own the work you prompt it to create.


The situation changes once you, the human, start tweaking the AI’s output.

us copyright office position on copyright and ai

Source: Bloomberg Law

In a nutshell, the question of who owns the copyright to AI-generated content depends on three factors:

  1. Where in the world you operate your business and create content.
  2. The AI writing tool you use.
  3. How much you’ve edited or intervened in the AI’s output.

Who Is Legally Responsible for an AI’s Output?

This depends on the country or jurisdiction where you operate your business (or where your client’s business operates).

Generally speaking, in the U.S., whoever commissions or develops an AI tool owns any copyrightable work created by that AI tool.

This means if you hire someone to create an AI program for you, then they would own any works generated by that program. However, if the creator has assigned all rights over to you (the customer), then those works would be yours instead.

Some tools don’t make any concessions for their users and don’t transfer the copyright to their customers.

That’s why it’s super important to ensure you’re using the right AI tool that knows and understands this concern, and passes the copyright to you without question.

My tool of choice, Content at Scale, is just such a tool. When you use it to create content, the copyright of that content passes to you, the creator driving the tool.

The Issue of Plagiarism: What Happens When an AI Creates Something That Already Exists?

If an AI creates something that already exists, such as a song or artwork, then there could be potential infringement issues depending on how closely related the two works are, and whether intent was involved in creating them both.

If it turns out that someone else owns exclusive rights over a particular piece of content created by your AI system, they may take legal action against you unless you obtained appropriate licenses beforehand that granted you permission to use their material.

This is an issue for a lot of AI tools, which learn from data that already exists to produce “new” data. However, that “new” data isn’t always new or even original.

So, how do you ensure what you create with AI is original and not copied or plagiarized?

Vet your tool. ✔

For example, Content at Scale has proprietary technology that allows it to produce unique content every time you use it: a mix of three different NLPs (natural language processors) plus an additional proprietary piece of software that crawls the top of Google.

The Bottom Line for Issues Surrounding Copyright and AI

Generally speaking, there are two main issues when it comes to AI and copyright. 1.) In the U.S., whoever commissioned or developed the AI program owns any works that program generates. And, 2.) if your AI tool produces content that already exists, you could be looking at an infringement issue.

Both of these issues come down to the tool you’re using to generate content. So, be careful. Do your homework. Don’t just use any tool — ensure the one you choose handles these sticky issues.

At the same time, do your due diligence, too. Check your content produced with AI for duplicate content and plagiarism with checkers like Copyscape or Originality.ai.

(Hot tip: In Content at Scale, Copyscape is built right into the tool so you can run a plagiarism check as you create.)

content at scale - plagiarism scan

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s move on to examining the copyright laws themselves.

What do they currently say about AI content? Are there differences between U.S. copyright law and laws in other countries?

Let’s examine AI and copyright in the U.S. and U.K. to find out.

AI-Generated Content and Copyright Laws

As the technology advances, it’s important to understand the copyright laws regarding AI-generated content, as these can have a significant impact on who owns and has control over that content.

There’s a lot of upheaval in that realm right now (think: lawsuits galore, especially regarding AI-generated images and artwork), but this is the most current information on what copyright law says about AI content.

United States copyright law is designed to protect the intellectual property of creators. This includes AI-generated content, which can be copyrighted if it meets certain criteria:

  • The content had significant creative input from a human author.
  • The content is original and not derivative (i.e., it doesn’t imitate a work or content that already exists).
  • The content was not created solely by an AI. (No human involvement? No copyright protection.)

Generally speaking, any AI-generated content that meets these criteria will qualify for copyright protection in the United States as long as there is evidence showing that authorship belongs to one entity or another (i.e., either an individual person or company).

For AI-generated content without human input or intervention, there are two scenarios:

  • That work cannot be copyrighted and therefore enters the public domain immediately after creation.
  • The work is considered a derivative work stemming from the training the AI was exposed to.
    • In this case, copyright would fall to whoever owns the AI tool or whoever owns the dataset the AI was trained on.

AI and Copyright Laws in the U.K.

U.K.’s copyright law is designed to protect the rights of creators and their works, including those created by artificial intelligence (AI).

AI-generated content is subject to the same rules as any other work, meaning that it can be protected under copyright law if it meets certain criteria.

For a work to be eligible for protection under U.K.’s copyright law, it must meet two requirements: originality and authorship.

  • Originality means that the work must have been independently created without copying from another source.
  • Authorship means there must be an identifiable human author who has contributed significantly to the creation of the work in question.

If these criteria are met, then a work may qualify for protection under U.K.’s copyright laws regardless of whether or not it was generated with AI technology.

However, there’s one important caveat: The legal responsibility lies with whoever owns or controls the AI system itself rather than with the system’s creator(s).

This means that even though an individual might have programmed or trained an AI system which produces copyrighted material, they will not necessarily own any rights over this material unless they also happen to own or control the system itself at all times during its operation; which may not always be possible.

What does that mean in layman’s terms? In the U.K., works created solely by an AI have a unique protection under the law.

The U.K. provides copyright protection for AI-generated works with no human creator. Instead, it defines the “author” as “the person by whom the arrangements necessary for the creation of the work are undertaken”, according to the U.K. Intellectual Property Office.

In other words, the author is the person who prompted the AI to create the content.

u.k. copyright protects ai content with no human author

This is super different from U.S. law, which doesn’t recognize work created solely by a machine, even if a human prompted that work.

Ready to implement a streamlined content creation process with AI that results in profitable, original content? I show you exactly how in my Content Process Blueprint

content process blueprint

How Can Content Creators Retain Their Copyright When Working with AI?

If you’re like the rest of the content marketing world, you’re probably using AI more and more in your own business marketing.

As AI trickles into our workflows, it’s important for us content creators to understand our rights so we can protect our work.

Here are a few ideas to ensure you produce original work and retain your copyright for that work.

1. Understand Your AI Software’s Copyright Policies and Practices

One of the most important ways that content creators can retain their copyright is by having a clear contract with the software provider they use for creating AI-generated works.

This should outline who owns any created works, including who has the right to reproduce, distribute, and modify them. Additionally, this contract should also include provisions on how royalties will be paid if someone else uses the work commercially or otherwise profits from it.

Or, check out your software provider’s stance on who owns the work produced with their systems.

Do they pass the copyright along to you, the customer/user? If they don’t, or they aren’t clear on this, you may want to find another tool.

2. Use Digital Watermarks

You should also consider using watermarks or other forms of digital signatures when publishing AI-generated material online. This ensures attribution remains intact even if others copy and share the content without permission or credit.

While it’s more common for visual content like images to include watermarks, that doesn’t mean your other content can’t include them. Digital watermarks can be added to written digital content like ebooks and PDF files.

3. Use Open Source Licenses

Finally, content creators may want to look into using an open source license like Creative Commons, which allows others to access, share, or remix your work as long as they provide attribution.

This type of license ensures that all users know exactly what permissions have been granted before downloading or using anything generated through artificial intelligence technology.

Tread Carefully with AI and Copyright

We’re at the forefront of technology that’s evolving before our eyes, but it’s important to keep up with the twists and turns for the sake of the quality and originality of our content.

In the U.K., creators are generally considered to be the owners of their AI-generated content, while in the U.S., there is more ambiguity as to who owns AI output.

In the short run, vet your AI tools carefully. Check your AI-generated content for originality with smart tools. Even further, make sure a human touches your AI content and leaves the unique fingerprints of your brand behind.

Need help building your business with a content strategy that leverages smart AI content creation?

The Content Transformation System is my 12-month mentorship program that focuses on building a foundation of skills, systems, and strategies so you can grow without limits.

Through coaching, live calls, and community, you’ll learn how to create content (streamlined with AI!) that’s original, unique, targeted, and profitable.

Let’s do this — apply today for the Content Transformation System.

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