Algorithms can now imitate any artist. Some artists hate it

Algorithms have been used to generate art for decades, but a new era of AI art began in January 2021, when AI development company OpenAI announced DALL-E, a program which used recent improvements in machine learning to generate simple images from a string of text. .

In April this year, the company announced DALL-E 2, which can generate photos, illustrations, and paintings that look like they were made by human artists. This month of July OpenAI announcement that DALL-E would be made available to everyone and that the images could be used for commercial purposes.

OpenAI limits what users can do with the service, using keyword filters and tools that can spot certain types of images that could be considered offensive. Others have built similar tools, such as Midjourney, used by Guadamuz to emulate Stålenhag, which may differ in their rules for proper use.

As access to AI art generators begins to expand, more and more artists are raising questions about their ability to mimic the work of human creators.

R.Palmerwho specializes in drawing fantastic creatures and worked as a concept artist on the film Detective Pikachu, says curiosity drove him to try DALL-E 2, but he also got a little nervous about what these AI tools might mean for his profession. Later, he was shocked to see users of the open-source image generator Stable Diffusion swap tips on generating art in different styles by adding artists’ names to a text prompt. “When they nurture the work of living, working artists who are, you know, struggling, it’s just mean-spirited,” Palmer says.

David Oreilly, a digital artist who has been critical of DALL-E, says the idea of ​​using these tools that feed on past work to create new money-making work seems wrong. “They don’t own any of the materials they reconstitute,” he says. “It would be like Google Images charging money.”

Jonathan Low, CEO of Jumpstory, a Danish stock image company, says it doesn’t understand how AI-generated images can be used for commercial purposes. “I’m fascinated by technology, but also deeply concerned and skeptical,” he says.

Hannah Wong, a spokeswoman for OpenAI, released a statement saying the company’s imaging service was used by many artists and the company sought feedback from artists when developing the tool. “Copyright law has adapted to new technologies in the past and will need to do the same with AI-generated content,” the statement said. “We continue to seek the views of artists and look forward to working with them and policy makers to help protect creators’ rights.”

Although Guadamuz thinks it will be difficult to prosecute someone for using AI to copy their work, he expects there will be lawsuits. “There will be absolutely all kinds of litigation at some point, I’m sure,” he says. He says counterfeiting trademarks like a brand’s logo or an image of a character like Mickey Mouse could prove more legally cumbersome.

Other legal experts are less sure that AI-generated counterfeits have a solid legal basis. “I could see a dispute stemming from the artist saying ‘I didn’t give you permission to train your algorithm on my art,'” says Bradford Newman, a partner at the law firm Baker Mckenzie, specializing in AI. “It’s a completely open question who would win such a case.”

Updated 8/19/2022, 12:25 PM EDT: This article has been updated with additional commentary from Andres Guadamuz.

Updated 08/19/2022, 6:40 PM EDT: This article has been updated with comment from Simon Stålenhag.

Sharon D. Cole