China court says AI broke copyright law in apparent world first

Key Points:

  • Chinese court found AI-generated images infringed copyright of Japanese superhero
  • AI company ordered to pay $1,400 in damages for creating images resembling Ultraman
  • Ruling raises questions about AI’s potential to infringe on protected material


A Chinese court, in a landmark ruling, found that images produced by an artificial intelligence service violated the copyright of the iconic Japanese superhero character Ultraman. The lawsuit was brought by an unnamed plaintiff who owned a portion of Ultraman’s copyright and accused an AI company of generating images that closely resembled the beloved character. The Guangzhou Internet Court determined that the AI-generated images bore a striking resemblance to Ultraman, implying that the AI had been trained using the original character’s likeness. Consequently, the court awarded 10,000 yuan (about $1,400) in damages to the plaintiff. Notably, details of the case were not publicly available on the court’s website.


Tsuburaya Productions, the Japanese studio behind Ultraman, has been embroiled in various copyright disputes globally, including in China and the United States, concerning the popular Ultraman franchise. In a separate ruling by a Beijing court in November, it was established that artworks produced by AI are eligible for copyright protection, setting the stage for a potential conflict between these two legal verdicts.



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