Disney's copyright lawyers cannot touch me. (Maybe.)

published June 8, 2022

Archives have been navigating the treacherous waters of copyright since their inception. For most archival items, determining copyright status is a fairly straightforward (if not cumbersome) process: there are charts that can be consulted, donor agreements that can be reviewed, and human-led entities that can be contacted. Even in situations where a work – such as a film – does not have one “author” or “creator,” copyright is usually assigned to a company or producer, and the rights are (usually) not difficult to suss out. As it has in many fields, however, the advent of artificial intelligence (“A.I.”) has upended traditional notions of creation and ownership. There is a sizable gap in the existing literature about this subject, particularly when approached from the angle of archival studies. Archives will need to contend with this change in approach on a theoretical level in order to be prepared for the upcoming practical realities it will bring. This piece explores the ways in which A.I. creates, the copyright issues A.I.-created works raise, and the implications for archives and other memory institutions, using art creation program DALL·E 2 as a case study.

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