AI Art Generator Trained Using Works of Renowned Artists Sparks Copyright Concerns

NNicholas January 5, 2024 7:02 AM

A list revealing thousands of artists whose work has been used to train an AI art generator has gone viral, provoking debates on copyright infringement and the regulation of AI-created art. The list, originally shared by artist Jon Lam, includes well-known figures like Norman Rockwell and Wes Anderson, among others.

Renowned artists' work used in AI training

An expansive list of over 4,700 artists has caused quite a stir online. The list, circulated virally, names renowned artists whose work was utilized to teach a prominent AI art generator. The list includes work from a broad range of artists, from the late Norman Rockwell to Oscar-nominated director Wes Anderson. The online art community has been buzzing with conversations around this list, raising questions about copyright and intellectual property rights.

Companies face lawsuit over copyrighted art misuse

The controversial list was used as an exhibit in a court case last November against several companies, including Midjourney, Stability AI, DeviantArt, and Runway AI. These companies, which have yet to respond to requests for comment, are accused of misappropriating copyrighted art from visual artists to train their AI systems. The most notable among these companies is Midjourney, a popular AI program accused of stealing artists' work without their permission.

Artists decry lack of credit and compensation

The rising popularity of AI-generated art has led to a surge in legal disputes and ethical debates. Artists argue that what is marketed as 'artificial intelligence' is often built around human creativity and expression, using artworks copied from the internet. They contend that the profits flowing from the misappropriation of these works go directly into the pockets of corporations, bypassing the artists who provide the creativity and receive neither credit nor compensation.

Artists worry about competing with AI

Since the boom of generative AI in 2022, artists have been suspicious about the origins of images churned out by these programs. There's a growing concern that these AI generators are not innovating but merely replicating styles established by real-life artists. With AI images often carrying scrambled artist signatures and users requesting images in the style of specific artists, it's getting harder for artists to compete with machine-derived versions of their own works.

The concerns about AI appropriation aren't limited to the world of visual arts. In Hollywood, AI-related protections have become a significant part of labor union negotiations with major studios. The new SAG-AFTRA contract, ratified last December, includes new rules stipulating that producers must obtain actors' consent and provide payment if they plan to replicate their likenesses using AI technology.

Midjourney’s spreadsheet, which caused this controversy, covers a wide array of artists, time periods, and styles. From classic painters and sculptors to contemporary cartoonists and animators, the list does not discriminate. However, it's reported that the company did not seek consent from any of the artists, particularly those who are still alive or whose works are still under copyright. This raises serious questions about the ethics and legality of using such works in the creation of AI-generated art.

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