Three artists Sarah Andersen, Kelly McKernan, and Karla Ortiz filed a lawsuit against Stability AI and Midjourney. They are the creators of AI art generation tools Stable Diffusion, Midjourney, and DeviantArt, which recently launched its own AI art generator, DreamUp.
The artists claim that the organizations infringe the rights of millions of artists by training their AI tools with five billion images from the internet “without the consent of the original artists.”
Matthew Butterick, the typographer, and lawyer, filed the lawsuit with Joseph Saveri Law firm. They specialize in class action and antitrust cases. Butterick and Saveri are currently suing Microsoft, OpenAI and GitHub in a similar case involving CoPilot’s AI programming model. It is based on lines of code gathered from the internet.
Butterick announced the suit in a blog post. He said that the ability of AI tools like Stable Diffusion “flood” the market with “essentially unlimited numbers of infringing pictures will cause permanent damage to the market for artists and art.”
The art community has strongly reacted to the popularity of AI art tools over the last year. Although some believe these tools are useful, similar to previous generations of software such as Illustrators and Photoshop, many others object to their work being used to train these money-making machines.
The web is full of billions upon billions of images that can be used to train AI art models. This happens without permission or knowledge from the creators. AI art generators can then produce artwork that is identical to the style of certain artists.
Experts say that the court will decide whether these systems violate copyright law. Fair use doctrine covers the training of AI art tools on copyrighted information, according to the creators. Fair use cases still need to go to court, and many complicating factors exist in the world of AI art generators.
These factors include the identity of the organizations that created these tools (the US and EU have slightly different legal provisions for data scraping) and their purpose. For example, Stable Diffusion is trained using the LAION dataset. Non-profits are often treated better than regular businesses in fair use cases.
Butterick and Joseph Saveri Law firm were also criticized for their lawsuit. For example, the suit claims that AI art models “store compressed copies of [copyright-protected] training images” and then “recombine” them, functioning as “21st-century collage tool[s].” However, AI art models do not store images but rather mathematical representations of patterns collected from these images. The software doesn’t create collages from pieces of images but rather uses mathematical representations to create pictures.