Imitation Is The Best Form Of Flattery. Flattery Is Not A Defense To Copyright Infringement.


Robot using a futuristic interface

I’m going to draw you like one of my French humans.

Unless you’ve been living under a law library, it would be hard to not take note of the rapid influx of AI art. Face modifying apps, extended shots of events and people that never happened that uncanny only begins to explain their weirdness, you name it. The figure of AI as artist has arrived, but is any of it legal? A small group of artists aim to find out. From Reuters:

A group of visual artists has sued artificial intelligence companies for copyright infringement, adding to a fast-emerging line of intellectual property disputes over AI-generated work.

Stability AI’s Stable Diffusion software copies billions of copyrighted images to enable Midjourney and DeviantArt’s AI to create images in those artists’ styles without permission, according to the proposed class-action lawsuit filed Friday in San Francisco federal court.

The artists’ lawyers, the Joseph Saveri Law Firm and Matthew Butterick, filed a separate proposed class action lawsuit in November against Microsoft’s GitHub Inc and its business partner OpenAI Inc for allegedly scraping copyrighted source code without permission to train AI systems.

I’m gonna flag it for you in case your eyes glossed over it. The word there is billions. Billons. With a B. Even if the individual damages are pennies on the dollar, the aggregate of those alleged copyright infringements would be… well, I’m not that good at math, but it would put a sizeable dent in my student loan principal.

Before I get in to what people think about this, I’d like to turn the mic over to an AI program to get its thoughts on the points of contention in this legal matter.

Damn… that was pretty good. There may actually be some teeth to the claim that tech’s algorithmic reasoning could at some point give Supreme Court justices a run for their money. Until then, let’s get back to a more human perspective.

This is going to be big. Not because AI art has and continues to screw over thousands of small, independent creators. That’s just a part of business. Big names are being impacted. Really big names.

Getty Images also announced Tuesday that it had initiated legal proceedings against Stability AI in the United Kingdom over Stability’s alleged copying of millions of its images.

Stability AI “chose to ignore viable licensing options and long‑standing legal protections in pursuit of their stand‑alone commercial interests,” Getty Images said in a statement.

For those not in the know, if you’ve ever seen a stock image, every one you’ve seen is probably from Getty. The thing that cracks me up about a lawsuit of this magnitude is that it started with monkeying around. I mean this literally — the issue around the legal status of images created by non-humans got a lot of attention after a macaque named Naruto took a selfie.

If you’d like to follow the case — of course you’d like to follow the case — here’s the citation: Andersen v. Stability AI Ltd, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, No. 3:23-cv-00201.

Lawsuits Accuse AI Content Creators Of Misusing Copyrighted Work [Reuters]

Chris Williams became a social media manager and assistant editor for Above the Law in June 2021. Prior to joining the staff, he moonlighted as a minor Memelord™ in the Facebook group Law School Memes for Edgy T14s.  He endured Missouri long enough to graduate from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. He is a former boatbuilder who cannot swim, a published author on critical race theory, philosophy, and humor, and has a love for cycling that occasionally annoys his peers. You can reach him by email at [email protected] and by tweet at @WritesForRent.

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