Rick McKee Opens an AI Pandora’s Box

Editorial cartoonist Rick McKee opined on the new Artificial Intelligence use of creating art works and cartoon images by utilizing an AI software application to help create his most recent cartoon.

Rick explained on Facebook:

I generated the bulk of this cartoon using MidJourney, a text-to-image generating AI. After many failed attempts and lots of tinkering, I finally got something I felt represented what I was going for…

© (?) Rick McKee

Rick continues:

I think this is the first time this has been done. I have no intention of using it again in my cartoons. I enjoy creating the art myself too much.

Note the question mark after the copyright notice.

The U. S. Copyright office has so far refused to issue copyrights to AI created art.

The Center for Art Law noted a couple months ago that in order to recieive a copyright the work must meet three requirements (all three):

  1. an original work of authorship;
  2. fixed in a tangible medium;
  3. that has a minimal amount of creativity.

Does Rick adding his own thoughts and pencils into the frame qualify for copyright?

I would have to say yes. But I don’t know law or artificial intelligence.

Now the AI created panel before Rick’s physical artistic input, would that be public domain?

6 thoughts on “Rick McKee Opens an AI Pandora’s Box

  1. This needs to stop. I think it’s cool that Rick says he’ll never do it again but why do it in the first place if he didn’t use it to make a point?
    We have cartoonists who trace photos for caricatures. We have cartoonists who are placing clipart into their cartoons. We have cartoonists who repurpose their previous drawings to the point that their new cartoons required no drawing at all. We have cartoonists who don’t draw anymore.

    We’ll soon see cartoonists using AI to create cartoons. Will they do like the tracers and clipart thieves, sign it and not tell anyone they cheated?

  2. The NCS stance on this is clear:
    The National Cartoonists Society values the hard work and skill required to create original art.
    The copyright of our members’ work should always be protected to the fullest extent, and we oppose any attempts to diminish those protections.
    The NCS always encourages the exploration of new ways technology enables our members to create their work. We do, however, oppose the commercial use of AI-generated images that have been trained on copyrighted works, and will not allow any artificially created art to be submitted for consideration for membership, nor any category of our awards.

    You can read more in today’s Washington Post about the ethical guide rails we’re pushing to be built into these technologies:

  3. I am not a cartoonist, but I am a photographer.

    Do photographers create art?

    Doesn’t Rick own the original concept? (A special cartoon partially created by AI) He tinkered with the AI until he got the results he wanted.

    How is that different than experimenting with a digital app. like Illustrator, Corel, using pencils, ink and pens , or lenses, filters & light?

    1. “How is that different than experimenting with a digital app. like Illustrator, Corel, using pencils, ink and pens , or lenses, filters & light?”

      Because artists’ (photographers, painters, cartoonists….) works have been used to train the AI.

      All art is derivative, but when that derivation is accelerated and weaponised, we have a problem.

      I want to use AI generated art more in my work, but there needs to be consent and compensation for artists’ works to be used to train AIs.

  4. Yeah, *how* the AI is trained is the problem. Training one exclusively on your own works probably wouldn’t achieve the desired results.

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