AI Generated Content Licensing for Copyright Explained :

AI : Artificial intelligence

As AI-generated content is flooding the internet, many AI artists are searching for platforms to license their AI-generated Artwork and earn some money from it. With 20+ years of experience in selling licensed artwork through online marketplace, Shutterstock has been at the top of the list for most of the artists. However, their policy toward licensing AI-generated artwork is unclear to many.

AI Generated Content Licensing for Copyright,

This article aims to explain what is AI-generated artwork and how artwork licensing works. The article will also cover a detailed explanation of Shutterstock’s policy for licensing AI-generated artworks.

What is AI-generated artwork?

AI-generated artwork is a visual or any other creative content like music, articles, paintings, graphics, vectors, etc., that is generated using artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms.

Artists or creative content creators work on several AI content generation platforms like, Artbreeder, DALL-E, etc., to generate art or manipulative images that use AI algorithms.

How do AI generators produce art?

AI-generated art is created through processes that involve neural networks and machine learning techniques. Here is a simplified overview of the process involved in AI art creation :

AI Generated Content Licensing for Copyright
AI generated image of a girl walking through a cherry blossom forest
  1. A huge amount of data is collected in the form of datasets through various sources like stock photos, geotagging, keywords, etc. All this information will be collected through the various stock images uploaded by the people under the Data Licensing scheme.

    Datasets are sets of visual content organized by a specific theme or topic that can include images (including photos, illustrations, and vectors), videos, and 3D models. Metadata, including keywords, descriptions, geo-location, and categories associated with an image, vector, and 3D models will be part of the datasets.

  2.  The collected data is processed as per the requirements of the creators. The creator gives input to the AI application in the form of a short explanation for example: ” Create an image of a girl walking through a cherry blossom forest.”  The AI algorithms will start to collect relevant data from various sources like stock images and generate datasets as per the creator’s request.
  3. AI algorithms then create a model that is trained using a processed data set. During the training, the model learns to recognize and replicate the patterns, style, design, color, etc. by combining various images into a single artwork.
  4. Many AI generators allow for iterative refinement. You can generate content and provide feedback or make adjustments to guide the AI towards producing the desired output.

Licensing AI artwork

Licensing AI generated artwork can be a tricky business. There are multiple reasons why AI generated artwork may cause rejections when you try to sell it online through stock sites like Shutterstock. Here are some key considerations when it comes to licensing AI artwork:

  1. Ownership and Authorship: There is a big debate as to who owns the copyright of the AI generated artwork. In most cases, it is told the copyright stays with the the creator of AI model, which means the owner of the AI generator application, not the content creator. It is still a topic of debate, whether the artwork created through AI generator can be considered an original or derivative. Thus it is unclear where the copyrights belong to the ones who train the datasets or the owner of the original content from where that training dataset is derived.
  2. Commercial Use and Royalties: Even if few websites allow to sale AI generated artwork for commercial Use or Royalties, an agreement has to be signed between the seller and content creator to share the royalty pay with the AI model creator and the owner of the training datasets. Thus a huge chunk of your earnings will be shared between many parties. The more complex art you try to sell, the chances are AI generator would have used an even more complex dataset. In turn the more shareholders to your royalty pay.
  3. Exclusivity: In under no circumstances, a creator can obtain exclusivity to their AI generated artwork.
  4. Ethical Considerations: While generating artwork using AI , a creator must be aware the contributors of the images that are used for the generation of the datasets that train the AI model, will not be aware of how their images will be used. A creator must use the data ethically so that their work may not create any issues like bias and discrimination.

Shutterstock’s AI policy and account Disablement

Shutterstock has issued a general warning related to the AI Generated Content Licensing policy

“Our marketplace policy does not currently allow content generated by AI to be directly uploaded and sold in our marketplace to protect contributors IP ownership of all content that is submitted. Caution as submitting AI work will lead to your account being disabled.”

Shutterstock’s Content Licensing policy states that you must own or control the copyright to all content you submit to Shutterstock. Shutterstock ensures contributors can prove Intellectual Property (IP) ownership of all submitted content. Since AI content generation models leverage the IP of many artists and their content, AI-generated content ownership cannot be assigned to an individual. Thus, you can not submit any artwork generated through AI generators on Shutterstock.


The legal and ethical landscape surrounding AI-generated content is still evolving, and regulations may vary by jurisdiction. It’s essential to stay informed about developments in this field and seek legal advice to ensure that your licensing agreements are legally sound and ethically responsible.

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