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Tech Tip for Writers #184 Copyright-free images in seconds?

Tech Tips for Writers is an occasional post on overcoming Tech Dread. I’ll cover issues that friends, both real-time and virtual, have shared. Feel free to post a comment about a question you have. I’ll cover it in a future tip.

AI-generated art is a game-changer for writers who do their own marketing and newsletters. I was reminded of that when I received a newsletter from good blogger friend Luciana Cavallaro, author of amazing historical fiction centered in ancient Rome. She sent a newsletter and wanted to include an image of a coach being hit in the face by a volleyball (don’t ask–it’s complicated). As close as she could get was this public domain image:

I accepted her challenge to find a better image and turned to DALL-E, one of the new platforms where AI generates art. Here’s what I got in about a minute:

Current thinking is that these images are free to use, owned by no one, similar to the legal permissions allowed by public domain images. Here’s an infogram explaining that, taken from DALL-E’s terms of service:

If you’d like more detail, check out this article from Tokenized, and here for Open AI (who owns DALL-E) Terms of Use (scroll to Section 3).

Admittedly, this is a confusing legal area. OpenAI (creator of ChatGPT and DALL-E) suggests this:

If you’d like to cite DALL·E, we’d recommend including wording such as “This image was created with the assistance of DALL·E 2” or “This image was generated with the assistance of AI.”

Sounds good to me–at least for now. Consider my four photos cited.

Please note: I’m not a lawyer so offer this information as a novice, for your consideration. 

Copyright ©2023 – All rights reserved.

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Man vs. Nature saga, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the acclaimed Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Savage Land Winter 2024


122 thoughts on “Tech Tip for Writers #184 Copyright-free images in seconds?

  1. I wonder how they acknowledge works of artists if you ask the AI to create an image in the style of lets say, Van Gogh or Dante? Would that be an original composition or considered plagiarism? This really opens up a debate for copyright, right?
    Thanks for posting, Jacqui and of my volleyball ball in face 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Jacqui, for me, there is something off about the positioning of the ball in all those AI generated pictures. I the first and last pictures, the positioning of the coaches hands is unnatural with the ball clearly inserted into the picture. The first picture, presumably actually taken by a human is far superior and this is why AI will never replace talented individuals.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As I do digital collage – well, my version of it – I was interested in the idea of finding images easily. But. Not sure I want to go down the AI path. For starters, I think I read somewhere that the AI were trained on all images on the internet, not just public domain ones. If individuals can’t get away with something like that I wonder why the creators of ChatGPT etc are allowed to?

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’m interested in exploring the AI art for use on book covers. Right now, I use and their images are free to use. Most of what I find is from, and other free image sources. This is interesting. The issue of using Word fonts in your books uploaded to Amazon is another problem waiting to explode. Everyone wants to copyright what is theirs… rightly so. I wonder though? If you create AI art and something is generated from your creative input, does it belong to you? After all, you changed the image to suit your needs. There are authors creating images and selling them online. I’m interested, but uncomfortable with the whole AI issue. Thanks for talking about this, Jacqui.

    Liked by 1 person

    • One of the uses I’ve been reading about for this platform is book covers. Me, I’d prefer to buy the image from Deposit Photos or similar. I do trust that Canva and Pixabay (and Pexels) have only public domain pictures on their sites. I hope that’s true…

      Didn’t know about the issue of Word fonts and Amazon. That’s interesting.

      According to DALL-E’s TOS, you do own anything created on their site, but there are also interesting things happening like marketing an AI name as a creator. When does s/he gain our human rights?

      I too am uncomfortable which is probably why I’ve been researching/writing so much about it lately. Thanks for your comments.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I played around with it–out of curiosity–and was surprised at what it came up with. It is a master of giving you exactly the image you need (like the volleyball hitting the coach). I could look for hours through PD pics and not find anything that worked.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Jacqui do you know if the AI images are always composite rather than a duplication of one image? If it’s a composite, I suppose it could be something like in the past when artists would create collage pieces by cutting out and combining printed images from magazines and other publications.
    Since I often used collage in my art pieces, I closely followed a few cases where artists were sued, and all were settled in the collage artist’s favor except for one. The salient point was whether or not the original image was ‘significantly modified.’ It was also sticky when a person was recognizable – in other words, the model didn’t give permission for the artist’s use like they did to the photographer and/or magazine.
    I suspect there will be ongoing litigation and debate about such with this new ‘collage’ medium, as well. IP protection is the most talked about topic I’ve heard surrounding generative AI besides amazement at the facility of these tools.
    Interesting topic. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. We are entering a new world! One of the reasons I still take photos is to have them available for illustrations that I don’t have to worry about copyright.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I’ve played around with DALL-E and it’s fun. Mid-Journey is the best I’ve found so far, but after the first 25 images, it requires a subscription that I couldn’t justify. This is going to revolutionize cover design for sure. Thanks for sharing the copyright info, Jacqui.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Thanks for the post, Jacqui. I understand the itch, but question whether AI is ready for prime-time scratching.

    Too many conflicting articles on copyright, and to date, court rulings are mixed. This creates the potential for reputational and legal risks to authors. I love tech, but my gut suggests there’s going to be a reckoning before we can use AI without concerns.

    For example, I understand the images are supposed to be free to use, but were the people-images in the photos “sourced” or were they computer “composites” of multiple images? If sourced, did the models sign away rights? How will we know, and if legal issues arise, who will address the court and pay any potential fees and damages?

    For now, AI is a slippery slope, and there’s not much to hang on to other than the permissions granted by the service providers, who may or may not be around when the bytes and bits hit the fan.

    Liked by 4 people

      • Not sure I like this at all, and I’m guessing you’re unlikely to like it, Jacqui, but perhaps those that are great curators will be the commercially sought after and admired communicators of the future.
        My short experimentation with the ChatGPT tool showed it took quite a bit of guidance and knowledge of writing, along with considerable communication skills in directing the tool, to get anything I’d consider postable or – if I lacked the morals – eligible to be turned in for a grade.
        I suspect students that use it for grades and are able to fool the teachers will have significant communication skills and perhaps a type of genius of their own.
        I may have gleaned this point on one of your earlier posts, but in case it wasn’t here: There’s already apps available claiming they can identify AI generated writing. At least one has been proven as fairly accurate by outside ‘reputable’ sources.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: Tech Tip for Writers #184 Copyright-free images in seconds — – uwerolandgross

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