There is no denying that Artificial Intelligence (AI) has positively impacted the world, from allowing for earlier detection of diseases to helping scientists improve climate decision-making and better understand the effects of wildfires and floods. AI technology is certainly ubiquitous and permeates every facet of life. However, the pace at which technology generally, and AI specifically, evolves and develops makes it difficult for laws to keep up. The use of AI in a variety of areas has already prompted scores of lawsuits and just last month, a group of artists filed a first of its kind class action lawsuit against several AI art generators.
Stable Diffusion, DeviantArt, and Midjourney are three of the organizations named in the suit which alleges that these companies violated copyright law by allowing their AI tools to generate images that are based off other artists’ work without permission from or compensation to the artist. The lawsuit argues that these companies use algorithms to first scan and scrape millions of images on the internet and then generate a “like'” version. Simply put, AI used by these companies are scanning the internet and using copyrighted images to create new, but “in the style” of, someone else’s art without the artist’s permission.
The artists bringing the class action suit attempted to meet with at least one of the companies named in the suit, but the companies refused to negotiate licensing agreements or compensation. The artists believe that these companies have been illegally profiting off art from around the world without compensation. Furthermore, the artists claim that the AI-generated art is causing harm to many hardworking artists whose original art is competing against these AI versions in online markets. In fact, some AI generated art has even won art competitions despite the work being essentially a derivative of someone else’s work. The companies named in the suit stand firm that they are in no way breaking any laws..
There is no doubt that artificial intelligence and other generative technologies will continue to evolve at a pace that our laws will continue to struggle to keep up with. This lawsuit is a reminder that almost every technology in history, as profound as its impact may be, comes with drawbacks and costs that must be carefully considered.