Throughout history, technological innovations have consistently revolutionized art, altering not only how art is created but also how it’s consumed and understood. The Renaissance saw the invention of linear perspective, fundamentally changing visual art. The 19th century introduced the camera, transforming portraiture and leading to the birth of photography. Fast forward to the 20th century, and the world witnessed the rise of digital art with the advent of computers. Each technological leap introduced new mediums, techniques, and paradigms, setting the stage for today’s AI-driven artistry.
Beeple’s Digital Legacy
In March 2021, the digital art world was abuzz when Beeple, or Mike Winkelmann, auctioned off “Everydays: The First 5,000 Days” and sold for $69 million at Christie’s. While this piece emerged from the artist’s decade-long dedication rather than AI’s algorithms, its NFT form highlights contemporary concerns over digital asset ownership and reproduction.
Refik Anadol and the Sphere’s Luminance
Refik Anadol is synonymous with the perfect melding of art and technology. His AI-driven artworks, marked by their fluidity and dynamism, have established him as a generative artistry pioneer. The Sphere in Las Vegas, a $2 billion architectural wonder created by the global studio Populous, will soon flaunt Anadol’s brilliance. This 366-foot-tall globe-shaped events venue, known as the “Exosphere,” boasts a 580,000-square-foot LED screen.
His creation for the Sphere comprises two distinctive “chapters.” The first chapter merges around 1.1 million publicly available images sourced from satellites, the International Space Station, and NASA’s Hubble telescope. The subsequent chapter features close to 300 million publicly sourced images of flora and fauna from national parks worldwide. Herein lies a compelling question: When artistry originates from public data, who claims copyright?
Imagining Beeple Through Anadol’s Lens
Venturing into a hypothetical realm, imagine Anadol incorporating Beeple’s 5,000 images into his data pool for a magnum opus at the Sphere. This fusion, animated and retailed as a 360-degree live NFT 5,000 times, juxtaposes the singularity of Beeple’s sale. Yet, where does this position originality? Is it homage, inspiration, or violating Beeple’s intellectual rights?
Furthermore, visualize these images, reshaped by tools like Midjourney or Adobe Firefly, exuding the indelible imprints of icons such as Keith Haring or Banksy. The colorful and lively strokes of Haring or the satirical flair of Banksy is now influencing Beeple’s digital realm—how does copyright adjust?
Copyright: AI’s Enigma
Anadol explores the vast universe of public data and art and treads on uncertain copyright terrain. If the same satellite imagery that Anadol avails is accessible to everyone, or if AI can effortlessly mimic esteemed artists, how do we pinpoint ownership?
Recent judgments from the U.S. Copyright Office and federal courts affirm that AI-generated works cannot be copyrighted due to their absence of human craftsmanship. The Copyright Act traditionally grants ownership to human creators, rendering AI’s masterpieces in a gray zone—potentially open for everyone to harness.
The ramifications are expansive for stakeholders spanning art, marketing, and advertising sectors. Is it lawful to merchandise AI-created art on attire? If an artwork’s essence is entwined with algorithms, how do we assess its authenticity or novelty?
The Horizon of AI in Art
The fusion of AI and artistry reveals an infinite potential laced with intricacies. As artists chart the vastness of public data and as AI matures to mimic iconic styles, the art sector is challenged with evolving definitions of originality and copyright. The queries of today might remain, but they are destined to mold the future convergence of art, commerce, and technology.