Skip to Main Content

Copyright guide

This is a companion guide to the RMIT Copyright webpages for staff and students.

What is generative AI?

Generative artificial intelligence or generative AI is a type of artificial intelligence (AI) system capable of generating text, images, or other media in response to prompts. Generative AI models learn the patterns and structure of their input training data, and then generate new data that has similar characteristics.

Examples include ChatGPT Stable Diffusion, Midjourney, and DALL-E.

Adapted from "Generative artificial intelligence" by Wikipedia is licensed under CC BY 3.0 

Is a work created by Generative AI protected by copyright?

The Australian Copyright Act does not explicitly mention AI. The existing provisions of the Copyright Act can give guidance to some extent around what copyright protects and how copyright is infringed.

Copyright protection in Australia is free and automatic as soon as content is in a material form (such as a song is recorded or artwork is painted). It does not need to be registered, applied for or paid for. 

To be protected content must be a work or other subject matter. In order to be protected, all literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works must be: 

  • An expression, not an idea
  • In a material form 
  • Original 
  • Made by a human author.

If a work is not created by a human author, it is not protected by copyright.

A work created solely by AI is not created by a human and does not qualify for Copyright protection in Australia.

Due to the prompts and training data, it can be unclear who owns the copyright in outputs from generative AI tools.

Adapted from "A short introduction to copyright" by Australian Libraries and Archives Copyright Coalition is licensed under CC BY 4.0

Book cover attribution

Webster, N. (2015). Copyright essentials Australian Copyright Council. Cover design: Slade Smith. All rights reserved.

Video: Who owns the rights to AI-generated art?

At a time when artificial intelligence programs like Midjourney and Stable Diffusion seem poised to transform the art world, the legal system hasn't figured out who owns the creative output — the users, the owners of the programs, or maybe no one at all.