The stock photo company Getty Images is suing Stability AI, the creator of the AI image generator Stable Diffusion. Getty alleges that Stability AI has committed a “brazen infringement of Getty Images’ intellectual property on a staggering scale.”
Stable Diffusion has purportedly used millions of Getty stock photos to generate content for users—without acknowledgment and permission. While usually Stable Diffusion produces an image that looks different than the original, it has noticeably reproduced Getty’s watermark, spurring concern among executives that the company’s image and reputation are being tarnished.
The lawsuit arrives amidst growing tension between AI image generators and artists and copyright holders. A recent article from The Wall Street Journal details the experience of artist Grzegorz Rutkowski, whose popular artwork is being mimicked by AI image generators. Rutkowski is joining a federal lawsuit against a number of these AI image tools. The case is so important since it may set precedent for future trends in the intersection of AI and the art world—and not just visual art. Per the Journal,
Mr. Rutkowski’s story matters because it is, in many ways, representative of the way that generative AI has the potential to transform the production of all kinds of creative work, including novels, marketing copy, news articles, video, illustration and code.
We’ve all been dealing for years with kinds of AI that excel in pattern recognition, enabling functions like recognizing family members’ faces in photo apps or flagging objectionable content before it reaches our social-media feeds.
The algorithms that power generative AIs go one step further. Both kinds of AI require large sets of training data, but generative AI can actually synthesize that data to produce new content, not just recognize what already exists.”-Christopher Mims, AI Tech Enables Industrial-Scale Intellectual-Property Theft, Say Critics – WSJ
Because these new AI algorithms produce “novel” material, the value of human-made content may be diminished by consumers.
It’s encouraging to see so many lawsuits surface so close to the arrival of these new AI tools, showing how artists and copyright holders aren’t going to get bowled over by the “next big thing.” Far from it. The ethics and legality of Stable Diffusion’s use of Getty Images are shady, and law experts think Getty’s (and Mr. Rutkowski’s) lawsuits have a strong chance of winning.