AI art generators targeted in lawsuit for intellectual property theft

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 16
A class action lawsuit alleges that the AI art generation engine Stable Diffusion was trained on billions of copyrighted materials without credit, compensation, or consent of content owners.

Stable Diffusion Tim Cook
Stable Diffusion Tim Cook


The Joseph Saveri Law Firm LLP is seeking a class action lawsuit against Stability AI, Midjourney, and DeviantArt for DMCA violations, right of publicity violations, unlawful competition, and a breach of terms of service. The companies allegedly built "artificially intelligent" art generators using millions of users' intellectual property without permission.

Stability AI, Midjourney, and Deviant Art all offer AI art generators built with a product called Stable Diffusion. It is essentially an algorithm that scans large databases of images in order to create new images based on a text prompt.

The image databases used for the tools offered by the offending companies allegedly belonged to customers of the platforms, or other public websites where artwork is shared. The companies allegedly scraped all of this data to create their models, which then create artwork based on the copyrighted material.

"AI needs to be fair and ethical for everyone," said lawyer/programmer Matthew Butterick. "But Stability AI, Midjourney, and DeviantArt are appropriating the work of thousands of artists with no consent, no credit, and no compensation. As a lawyer who is also a longtime member of the visual-arts community, it's a pleasure to stand up on behalf of fellow artists and continue this essential conversation about how we the people want AI to coexist with human culture and creativity."

The term "artificial intelligence" has become a catch-all for any program that generates information or responses using increasingly large datasets. In the case of Stable Diffusion and other programs like it, they are advanced machine learning algorithms capable of processing large amounts of data to create a single image.

According to the lawsuit, if the input to the algorithm is copyrighted images and information, then the output would be an infringement of the copyright if used without permission. This would allegedly eliminate the need for artists and replace them with the AI art tool.

The class action lawsuit aims to seek redress for wrongful conduct and prevent taking over artists' jobs by protecting them using the same laws that enable streaming music services to exist.

The filing was made by the Joseph Saver Law Firm LLP along with Matthew Butterick, and Lockridge, Grindal, Nauen P.L.L.P. It is filed with the United States District Court for the Northern District of California on behalf of a class of plaintiffs seeking compensation for damages caused by Stability AI, DeviantArt, and Midjourney.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 24
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 2,556member
    My problem with AI art is not (just) the infringement and theft. My problem is that it can never be creative. It will always be derivative. Yes you can say make a picture of a tree in the style of Renoir, but it will never have its own style. It will never do something artists do all the time, start out painting one thing and have it go in a different direction, evolve into something else. AI can paint a tree in a field with clouds in the sky. It will never morph the tree into a dinosaur because it feels like it. 

    Then when AI art is using AI derived images as it’s source, the entropy, the noise will increase until there is nothing of value. 
    ravnorodom
  • Reply 2 of 24
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,508member
    DAalseth said:
    My problem with AI art is not (just) the infringement and theft. My problem is that it can never be creative. It will always be derivative. Yes you can say make a picture of a tree in the style of Renoir, but it will never have its own style. It will never do something artists do all the time, start out painting one thing and have it go in a different direction, evolve into something else. AI can paint a tree in a field with clouds in the sky. It will never morph the tree into a dinosaur because it feels like it. 

    Then when AI art is using AI derived images as it’s source, the entropy, the noise will increase until there is nothing of value. 
    Derivative, and using several sample images to do so, some copyrighted and some public domain. But being a derivative composition means it's likely going to likely be deemed fair use. 
    edited January 16 DAalsethramanpfaff
  • Reply 3 of 24
    I think it's amusing that for all the hype of AI it is reduced to producing images of cats in spacesuits as if that is some great achievement. It's novel , and interesting, but it just comes from feeding a machine learning algorithm millions of images. How about developing a cancer cure?
  • Reply 4 of 24
    loopless said:
    I think it's amusing that for all the hype of AI it is reduced to producing images of cats in spacesuits as if that is some great achievement. It's novel , and interesting, but it just comes from feeding a machine learning algorithm millions of images. How about developing a cancer cure?
    And some of the first uses of electricity was to try and re-animate life. Hey everyone, look at what we can do to a corpse or a frog’s leg! Isn’t electricity amazing?!? Developing a strategy for detecting cancer at earlier and earlier stages will happen… but first, check out how I can make this dead frog or human move!
  • Reply 5 of 24
    Personally think this is really nonsense. What artist has not been influenced by other artists? So are you creative or derivative if you have experienced an image that influenced you?

    Like they say, 'Good AI art programs borrow. Great AI programs steal.'
    dewmegatorguy
  • Reply 6 of 24
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 10,315member
    “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” Steve Jobs
    algrramanpfaff
  • Reply 7 of 24
    fred1fred1 Posts: 1,038member
    lkrupp said:
    “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” Steve Jobs
    He may have said that, but so did many before him:  
    https://quoteinvestigator.com/2013/03/06/artists-steal/?amp=1
    Alex_V
  • Reply 8 of 24
    gatorguy said:
    DAalseth said:
    My problem with AI art is not (just) the infringement and theft. My problem is that it can never be creative. It will always be derivative. Yes you can say make a picture of a tree in the style of Renoir, but it will never have its own style. It will never do something artists do all the time, start out painting one thing and have it go in a different direction, evolve into something else. AI can paint a tree in a field with clouds in the sky. It will never morph the tree into a dinosaur because it feels like it. 

    Then when AI art is using AI derived images as it’s source, the entropy, the noise will increase until there is nothing of value. 
    Derivative, and using several sample images to do so, some copyrighted and some public domain. But being a derivative composition means it's likely going to likely be deemed fair use. 
    The problem with claiming "fair use" is that the art program has to have the exact art in its database in order to derive anything from it. Did the artist give permission to the programmers of the art program to use their exact art as part of the database? That's the relevant question. Composition can't be copyrighted but the exact art can be and these programs don't work without making use of the exact art. 

    IMO, every art generating program should either be limited to public domain images or images that are either owned/licensed by the company that created the program. 
    ravnorodom
  • Reply 9 of 24
    What artist has not been influenced by other artists? So are you creative or derivative if you have experienced an image that influenced you?
    When a human being looks at an artwork and is influenced by it, there isn't going to be an exact duplicate of that art created in the mind. There will be a remembered impression of it. Programs that create art DO have an exact duplicate in their memory. That's what they're talking about in terms of comparing it to streaming music. These art programs would be referencing the exact art that human artists produced over and over and over again. 
    FileMakerFellerravnorodom
  • Reply 10 of 24
    Yet the AI generated pieces are not exact copies of the original material. The systems have been trained using images created by others - are there any painters out there who haven't done the exact same thing? If you've put your original artwork on a website and allowed people to look at it, any one of those people could have copied "been influenced by" your style and could then have gone on to create their own artwork that they use for commercial purposes.

    I don't see a valid argument here. There are countless industries where automation is having a severe impact on existing business models and commercial viability; like everyone else visual artists will need to spend time discovering where the value is generated in their work and sell that instead. I empathise because that's a hard path to traverse, but that's the way the world is going.
  • Reply 11 of 24
    Damn Lawyers. Please note that they can’t sue for ACTUAL infringement so they are claiming ALL artists have been infringed. 

    Class action lawsuits need to be stopped since the only people profiting from them are the lawyers.


    DAalseth
  • Reply 12 of 24
    I always enjoy seeing seeing snippets of Getty images in some of the AI work I've played with. Cracks me up and makes me cry. I'm old. Lol
  • Reply 13 of 24
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,508member
    gatorguy said:
    DAalseth said:
    My problem with AI art is not (just) the infringement and theft. My problem is that it can never be creative. It will always be derivative. Yes you can say make a picture of a tree in the style of Renoir, but it will never have its own style. It will never do something artists do all the time, start out painting one thing and have it go in a different direction, evolve into something else. AI can paint a tree in a field with clouds in the sky. It will never morph the tree into a dinosaur because it feels like it. 

    Then when AI art is using AI derived images as it’s source, the entropy, the noise will increase until there is nothing of value. 
    Derivative, and using several sample images to do so, some copyrighted and some public domain. But being a derivative composition means it's likely going to likely be deemed fair use. 
    The problem with claiming "fair use" is that the art program has to have the exact art in its database in order to derive anything from it. Did the artist give permission to the programmers of the art program to use their exact art as part of the database? That's the relevant question. Composition can't be copyrighted but the exact art can be and these programs don't work without making use of the exact art. 

    IMO, every art generating program should either be limited to public domain images or images that are either owned/licensed by the company that created the program. 
    Example: https://petapixel.com/2022/12/08/photographer-loses-plagarism-case-against-artist-who-ripped-off-her-work/
  • Reply 14 of 24
    loopless said:
    I think it's amusing that for all the hype of AI it is reduced to producing images of cats in spacesuits as if that is some great achievement. It's novel , and interesting, but it just comes from feeding a machine learning algorithm millions of images. How about developing a cancer cure?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpYcu5UTiFE
  • Reply 15 of 24
    davidwdavidw Posts: 1,739member
    gatorguy said:
    DAalseth said:
    My problem with AI art is not (just) the infringement and theft. My problem is that it can never be creative. It will always be derivative. Yes you can say make a picture of a tree in the style of Renoir, but it will never have its own style. It will never do something artists do all the time, start out painting one thing and have it go in a different direction, evolve into something else. AI can paint a tree in a field with clouds in the sky. It will never morph the tree into a dinosaur because it feels like it. 

    Then when AI art is using AI derived images as it’s source, the entropy, the noise will increase until there is nothing of value. 
    Derivative, and using several sample images to do so, some copyrighted and some public domain. But being a derivative composition means it's likely going to likely be deemed fair use. 
    The problem with claiming "fair use" is that the art program has to have the exact art in its database in order to derive anything from it. Did the artist give permission to the programmers of the art program to use their exact art as part of the database? That's the relevant question. Composition can't be copyrighted but the exact art can be and these programs don't work without making use of the exact art. 

    IMO, every art generating program should either be limited to public domain images or images that are either owned/licensed by the company that created the program. 
    What's the difference between the AI having the exact artwork in its database and that of artists that uses the internet or public library, as their "database"? I can google Salvador Dali "melting clock" and get hundreds of exact images of Dali's "melting clock" artwork. I can also go to the public library and check out art books containing those exact images. Can't an artist use those exact images on the internet or book, to create a derivative artwork consisting of an Apple Watch "melting" on a person's wrist? Are artists that uses the internet as their "database", infringing on some one else's intellectual property, just because they have access to the exact artwork that influenced them to create derivative artworks?  And without having ever seen any images of Dali's "melting clock" artworks, what artist would be inspired to create an image of a "melting" Apple Watch, on a person's wrist? 

    And right now, I don't think any AI imaging program can extract as much detail out of any artwork, as the human eyes and brain. What makes the Mona Lisa so pleasing for humans to look at, is much more than what can be put into 1's and 0's. 
    gatorguy
  • Reply 16 of 24
    I am a designer and also an artist. What AI generator does is not cool. My character drawings are influenced by Walt Disney and Osamu Tezuka (Astro Boy creator). I have my own style and none of my drawings look like their drawings. But AI generator literally takes an artist drawing directly, distorts it like how you messing it around in Photoshop and calls it AI Art. What the hell? The style looks exactly like the original artworks from the original artist. There is absolutely no original style with this AI at all. It's copy, paste and distort.
  • Reply 17 of 24
    Alex_VAlex_V Posts: 123member
    Fascinating topic and discussion. I think the litigants have a case, but I’m no law expert. This reminds me of the US courts ruling that a computer loading data in to RAM is technically making a ‘copy,’ and that must be expressly permitted by the copyright holder, or else it is a violation of their copyright. 
    I don’t know whether subsequent court rulings have superseded this interpretation of the law. Maybe artists in future will have to expressly permit or forbid AI from ‘scraping’ their work, and stuff in the public domain will remain fair game. 
  • Reply 18 of 24
    AppleZuluAppleZulu Posts: 1,481member
    The difference is that humans have sentience and employ creativity.

    If a human produces art that too obviously shows his influences, it's discounted as derivative. If he too closely mimics his influences, he can be sued for copyright infringement. Copyright infringement cases against humans generally have to show first that the infringer was actually exposed to the plaintiff's work. If that can't be established, the plaintiff will likely lose the case. If the exposure to the plaintiff's work can be established, then the case moves to whether or not the defendant too closely copied the work, or if he carried out an independently creative process that only superficially reflects the plaintiff's work. A good artist develops his own style and is more than the sum of his influences.

    The question here then becomes whether AI can actually be creative, or if it's simply producing remixed versions of its influences according to a set of instructions in the programmer's algorithm, along with instructions ordering production of a given piece. The AI's database establishes exposure to the copyrighted works. If the AI algorithm simply remixes and distorts its influences, there's no creativity. It's simply following instructions telling it how much of which influences to use in the remixed end-product. It's nothing more than the sum of its influences. To avoid the infringement case, it must be demonstrated that the AI introduces something independently creative.
    edited January 17
  • Reply 19 of 24
    danoxdanox Posts: 1,494member
    Now you know don’t upload your work to a public site, not if you care about it. Art work, Pictures, Comics, your book or short story, what did think was going to happen, James Earl Jones, Morgan Freeman, James McAvoy voices, and anyone else with a distinctive voice will be stolen and used to make money with cheap adverts, and audible books well into the future.

    Uploading any file that you care about to any online service is done at your own risk I don’t (never have ) understood with the humongous storage capacity’s available these days on your computer or in an external box sitting next to your computer, why anyone would upload files/data they care about onto someone’s server that they don’t own/control, ultimately, these people obviously aren’t your friends (never were) if you have the capacity never back up and send files/data online that you care about why?

    These data/file services obviously have nice flowery agreements that you agree to before you upload anything to their site. Good luck with that in court. Facebook, Google, Dropbox or any other nameless service aren’t your friends, and it’s almost a guarantee that they share pictures, manuscripts, voices, audio and any other file among each other with the purpose of making money.
    edited January 17
  • Reply 20 of 24
    Alex_VAlex_V Posts: 123member
    AppleZulu said:

    The question here then becomes whether AI can actually be creative, or if it's simply producing remixed versions of its influences according to a set of instructions in the programmer's algorithm, along with instructions ordering production of a given piece. The AI's database establishes exposure to the copyrighted works. If the AI algorithm simply remixes and distorts its influences, there's no creativity. It's simply following instructions telling it how much of which influences to use in the remixed end-product. It's nothing more than the sum of its influences. To avoid the infringement case, it must be demonstrated that the AI introduces something independently creative.
    I think you are making a mistake of separating the so-called ‘AI’ from the persons who programmed it. The litigants, in this case, are suing the programmers or owners of the technology, as they are subject to the law. AIs, like self-driving cars, are merely technologies. They only do what they are programmed to do. We should be careful not to assume that AIs have agency. 
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