A huge and significant lawsuit is on its way to AI imagery generators, with the goal of defending artists. A class action was filed against Stability AI, Midjourney, and DeviantArt for DMCA violations, right of publicity violations, and unlawful competition. Artists must be compensated and protected. All details are below.
A class-Action lawsuit against AI-imagery generators
It is time to protect the artists for their great and important work. The class-action lawsuit was filed by Joseph Saveri Law Firm and Lockridge Grindal Nauen P.L.L.P. As stated in the abstract: “Stability AI Ltd.; Stability AI, Inc.; Midjourney Inc.; and DeviantArt, Inc. have created products that infringe the rights of artists and other creative individuals under the guise of alleged “artificial intelligence.” The Joseph Saveri Law Firm, LLP—a leading class action firm with offices in California and New York—along with Matthew Butterick, and Lockridge, Grindal, Nauen P.L.L.P. have led a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California on behalf of a class of plaintiffs seeking compensation for damages caused by Stability AI, DeviantArt, and Midjourney, and an injunction to prevent future harms. The lawsuit alleges direct copyright infringement, vicarious copyright infringement related to forgeries, violations of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), violation of class members’ rights of publicity, breach of contract related to the DeviantArt Terms of Service, and various violations of California’s unfair competition laws”.
If streaming music can be accomplished within the law, so can AI products.
Midjourney uses billions of copyrighted pictures
These AI generators utilized a methodology called Stable Diffusion in order to produce ‘new’ pictures from other copyrighted pictures, based on text description (prompt). As described in the lawsuit: “Stable Diffusion is an artificial intelligence product used by Stability AI, DeviantArt, and Midjourney in their AI image products. It was trained on billions of copyrighted images contained in the LAION-5B dataset, which were downloaded and used without compensation or consent from the artists. If Stable Diffusion and similar products are allowed to continue to operate as they do now, the foreseeable result is they will replace the very artists whose stolen works power these AI products with whom they are competing. AI image products are not just an infringement of artists’ rights; whether they aim to or not, these products will eliminate “artist” as a viable career path. In addition to obtaining redress for the wrongful conduct, this lawsuit seeks to prevent that outcome and ensure these products follow the same rules as any other new technology that involves the use of massive amounts of intellectual property. If streaming music can be accomplished within the law, so can AI products”. According to the lawsuit: “Stability AI, Midjourney, and DeviantArt are appropriating the work of thousands of artists with no consent, no credit, and no compensation”.
Stable Diffusion is an artificial intelligence product used by Stability AI, DeviantArt, and Midjourney in their AI image products. It was trained on billions of copyrighted images contained in the LAION-5B dataset, which were downloaded and used without compensation or consent from the artists. If Stable Diffusion and similar products are allowed to continue to operate as they do now, the foreseeable result is they will replace the very artists whose stolen works power these AI products with whom they are competing.
The LAION-5B dataset: Almost 6 Billions of images
As explained in the lawsuit, Midjourney (and we’ll take Midjourney as our main reference due to its insane popularity) takes its ‘AI inspiration’ from an actual vast database of pictures —almost 6 billion copyrighted pictures. This database is called LAION-5B and it is composed of pictures paired with descriptive text. In fact, we found a lot of YMCinema pictures on it, of course without getting our permission. And those pictures are utilized when the prompt is written, in order to create other pictures. These copyrighted pictures were trained, downloaded, and ‘diffused’, in order to create other pictures from a textual description. That would be called ‘generalization’.
Those AI products could not exist without the work of painters, illustrators, photographers, sculptors, and other artists.
Comprehensive research has proved that pictures created from Midjourney were utilized from other pictures made by artists. As stated in the research: “Beyond data privacy, understanding how and why diffusion models memorize training data may help us understand their generalization capabilities. For instance, a common question for large-scale generative models is whether their impressive results arise from truly novel generations, or are instead the result of direct copying and remixing of their training data. By studying memorization, we can provide a concrete empirical characterization of the rates at which generative models perform such data copying”. Then it adds: “AI image generators can “memorize” images from the data they’re trained on. Instead of creating something completely new, certain prompts will get the AI to simply reproduce an image. Some of these recreated images could be copyrighted. But even worse, modern AI generative models have the capability to memorize and reproduce sensitive information scraped up for use in an AI training set”.
Artists have already begun to experience the financial burden these products can have on their livelihoods. Art students are wondering whether they should continue to pursue their passions.
Protecting artists = Protecting art
Full disclosure: I personally made a huge mistake by using the Midjourney platform for a couple of articles (RED vs. ARRI through the eyes of AI) without knowing the complications and sensitivity regarding the artists. I sincerely apologize for this. It’s a shame I can’t give the proper credit for those images. I have a lot of artists friends that have a real concern about platforms like Midjourney. Artists are reporting that their art forms were used by Midjourney to create ‘new’ stuff. People are talking about the art of the prompt, and not the art of the brush and canvas. Writing a prompt is the opposite of doing art. The initiators of the lawsuit described that concern very well: “Those AI products could not exist without the work of painters, illustrators, photographers, sculptors, and other artists. Artists have already begun to experience the financial burden these products can have on their livelihoods. Art students are wondering whether they should continue to pursue their passions”. As filmmakers, we should be concerned also, since in the near future, a video could be created by writing a text prompt. There will be no need for cinematographers anymore since AI generators will base their ‘creation’ on videos that were professionally crafted. Thus, let’s fight those art-killers products. The legislation must be established, just like it is in the music industry. Let’s save our industry. We’ll keep you posted on the progress of this important class action lawsuit.
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