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The Miseducation Of Artifical Intelligence: Lawsuits Allege AI Training Violates Artists' Rights

by Rudy Sanchez on 01/19/2023 | 2 Minute Read

The opening salvos have been launched in the nascent war between humans and machines. Not on some Tron-esque virtual battlefield, but in the courts.

A class action lawsuit on behalf of artists against Stability AI, Midjourney, and DeviantArt alleges that the AI firms and the online art community have infringed their rights in training the technology. The plaintiffs include artists Sarah AndersenKelly McKernan, and Karla Ortiz.

Plaintiffs contend that Stability AI and Midjourney scraped billions of images—many of which are copyrighted—without due consideration paid to the artists. Furthermore, as derivative works, the AI-generated images violate the original artists’ intellectual property (IP) rights.

Additionally, DeviantArt is accused of failing to support its human community by allowing AI-generated art on its platform. DeviantArt offers its own AI product, DreamUp, which gets powered by Stability’s Stable Diffusion.

Visual artists aren’t the only ones alleging that artificial intelligence training infringes on intellectual property rights. Getty Images has proceeded with litigation in the UK against Stability over similar claims that its AI trained on Getty’s copyrighted images without permission or due consideration. Another class action lawsuit alleges that Microsoft-owned GitHub’s CoPilot, powered by OpenAI, violates non-commercial licenses of open-source projects. CoPilot aids in software development by intelligently offering code suggestions, syntax correction, and recommended libraries to include.

While artists and open source developers argue that AI training violates the IP rights of artists and non-commercial software licenses, AI developers and robot bootlickers—er, proponents—claim that the fair use doctrine covers the process. Fair use allows the software to access that work regardless of copyright or not having the permission of the content owner under certain circumstances. Fair use, however, gets decided upon on a case-by-case basis. Several factors are considered, including the purpose and intention, whether the use of the copyrighted work is commercial, not-for-profit, or educational. There's also the nature of the copyrighted work, how much of the work was used, and the impact on the market value of the work. Examples of fair use include parody, commentary, and reviews.

These lawsuits are the major first legal tests of AI with significant implications for artists and others that create intellectual property.