Landmark Lawsuit Seeks to Defend Human Artists in the Age of AI

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Artists Sue AI Firms as Computer-Generated Art Threatens Careers and Livelihoods

Visual artists like Kelly McKernan are discovering AI image generators using their unique styles without consent, threatening artists’ copyrights and careers.

McKernan and others are now suing AI companies in a landmark case over the unauthorized use of billions of images to “train” AI systems.

McKernan first noticed online images eerily similar to their surreal, feminine-centric art created just by typing their name into an AI tool.

Despite asking companies not to repurpose their work, McKernan and fellow plaintiff Karla Ortiz say AI can now generate art competing with the originals.

“Someone’s profiting from my work,” said McKernan. “It doesn’t feel right.”

Ortiz, a Hollywood concept artist, calls it “overnight an almost billion-dollar industry” that never asked to use her work which appears in major movies.

The lawsuit alleges AI art generators like Stability AI’s Stable Diffusion violate copyrights by ingesting troves of art to produce new imagery.

But legal experts expect challenges in proving copyright infringement since AI outputs differ from inputs.

“We’re David against Goliath here,” said McKernan, seeking to protect artists’ creations and incomes from being replaced by AI.

Ortiz worries productions will use cheap subscription-based AI over human artists.

But she says the creative process makes people human: “That’s what being human is to me.”

The Rapid Rise of AI Art

The artificial intelligence art phenomenon has exploded seemingly overnight.

Services like Midjourney, DALL-E 2, and Stable Diffusion allow users to generate lifelike images from text prompts, opening an artistic Pandora’s box.

Behind the scenes, these AI systems ingest massive datasets of images and art to “learn” visual concepts and styles.

The resulting synthetic art can replicate existing aesthetics or produce entirely new surreal, futuristic, or photorealistic images.

Demand for AI art skyrocketed in 2022 as tech firms commercialized the technology and offered cheap subscriptions.

Generative AI became a viral sensation, but also stirred alarm among human artists who felt exploited by their work being used without permission.

Legal Gray Area Threatens Artists’ Livelihood

McKernan and Ortiz emphasize that they are not anti-technology.

“I’m not inherently opposed to AI,” said McKernan.

But profiting from appropriating artists’ labor without consent crosses an ethical line.

Copyright law has struggled to keep pace with AI’s implications.

Large datasets used to train models typically rely on images scraped from the web without licensing.

AI firms claim new images are sufficiently transformed, but artists see clear aesthetic theft.

“Our industry will be diminished to such a point that very few of us can make a living,” warned Ortiz, citing productions already using AI art.

Easy access to generated images threatens to devalue human artistic skills.

For McKernan, AI art casts doubt on their career’s financial viability.

“Will I even have work a year from now?” they asked.

The technology’s exponential growth leaves artists feeling powerless, uncertain if copyright law can protect their creations and incomes.

Landmark Legal Battle Brews

The lawsuit alleges AI art represents “copyright infringement on a massive scale” and seeks damages and injunctions to halt unauthorized use.

But legal experts expect thorny questions on whether AI outputs are sufficiently original.

Earlier this year, the US Copyright Office denied an attempt to copyright an AI artwork, setting precedent.

However, the technology is evolving rapidly, with new techniques like “inpainting” that can closely mimic specific artists’ styles.

The case sits at the intersection of technology ethics, copyright law, and automation’s impacts on careers.

“Advocating for human artists” has become McKernan’s mantra. They aim to spark a debate on preserving human creativity as AI capabilities advance.

Ortiz believes the trial will be an uphill battle but hopes it will force action to protect artists.

McKernan views it as a fight for the essence of humanity. The outsourcing of creative work to machines strikes at what makes people uniquely human.

Artificial intelligence promises to democratize art, but undermines existing artists.

As generative models grow more sophisticated, human creators face a precarious future.

Preemptive safeguards and ethical AI practices are needed to ensure machines enrich, rather than replace, humanity’s imagination.

Read the original story here:

AP News



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AI art artists automation copyright creativity generative art Karla Ortiz Kelly McKernan lawsuit Stability AI

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