software ai text to image software creators sued by artists

Stability AI DeviantArt and Midjourney Sued by Artists

AI vs Artists
Sorry artists! Prompt used: Create an image in the style of an 18th-century painting showing artists fighting AI

Joseph Saveri Law Firm is suing the makers and collaborators behind new groundbreaking text-to-image software over claims that the images used to train the software were used without artists’ permission.

The complaint that’s on behalf of plaintiffs Sarah Andersen, Kelly McKernan, and Karla Ortiz reads,

Until now, when a purchaser seeks a new image in the style of a given artist, they must pay to commission or license an original image from that artist. Now, those purchasers can use the artist’s works contained in Stable Diffusion along with the artist’s name to generate new works in the artist’s style without compensating the artist at all.

The lawsuit argues that Stable Diffusion and Midjourney are complex collage tools that use a mathematical process to create seemingly new images. It argues that the image is based on billions of copyrighted training images that are incorporated into Stable Diffusion as compressed copies.

The Largest Art Theft in History

A spokesperson for the law firm argues that assuming nominal damages at $1 per image, the misappropriation could amount to up to $5 billion.

The spokesperson likens Stable Diffusion to the largest ever art heist that occurred in 1990 of 13 artworks from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum worth an estimated $500 million.

It’s not just tech companies that are involved in the controversy. The popular art website DeviantArt suffered a backlash from its user base after it created an AI text-to-image tool that artists say was trained on images without permission.

The backlash prompted DeviantArt to change its policy immediately. DeviantArt said,

In order to remain in compliance with DeviantArt’s updated Terms of Service, third parties that continue to use DeviantArt-sourced content to train machine-learning models of any kind must ensure their training data set excludes all content for which either of these directives are present. DeviantArt encourages other creator platforms to adopt this approach in order to ensure artists remain able to share their work with online audiences while retaining control over non-human usage.

However, it’s too little too late as DeviantArt’s AI tool was based on Stable Diffusion that, in turn, was trained on images sourced from the internet, including images from DeviantArt.

The alleged theft has already occurred, and the models have already been trained. The lawsuit aims to recover the damages and also protect future artists from their work being used without permission.

We Need to Protect the Rights of Artists

Joseph Saveri, the founder of the law firm suing Stable Diffusion and Midjourney, said,

As burgeoning technology continues to change every aspect of the modern world, it’s critical that we recognize and protect the rights of artists against unlawful theft and fraud. This case represents a larger fight for preserving ownership rights for all artists and other creators.

It’s a tough one. On the one hand, we want to see the development of new cutting-edge technology, but on the other, we want to see it implemented in a fair manner for all. While Stability AI is open source, it’s still used by companies that are for profit.

About James Capell

James Capell

Technical editor and journalist. I have a particularly strong interest in NLP, AI ethics and cyber crime. Not too fond of cats.