Getty Images Bans AI-Generated Artworks For Fear Of Copyright Issues

enlarge / A selection of stable diffusion images with a crossed out.

Ars Technica

Getty Images has banned the sale of AI-generative artwork created with image synthesis models such as Stable Diffusion, DALL-E 2 and Midjourney through its service, The Verge reports.

To clarify the new policy, The Verge spoke to Getty Images CEO Craig Peters. “There are real copyright concerns about the output of these models and unaddressed rights issues related to the images, the metadata of the images and the people in the images,” Peters told the publication.

Getty Images is a large repository of stock and archival photographs and illustrations, often used by publications (such as Ars Technica) to illustrate articles upon payment of a license fee.

Getty’s move follows the ban on image synthesis by smaller art community sites earlier this month, who found their sites were inundated with AI-generated work that threatened to overwhelm artworks created without the use of those tools. Getty Images competitor Shutterstock allows AI-generated artwork on its site (and although Vice recently reported that the site was removing AI artwork, we’re still seeing the same amount as before — and Shutterstock’s content submission terms haven’t changed. ).

A notice from Getty Images and iStock about a ban on
enlarge / A notice from Getty Images and iStock about a ban on “AI-generated content.”

Getty Images

The ability to copyright AI-generated artwork has not been tested in court, and the ethics of using artists’ work without permission (including artworks found on Getty Images) to train neural networks that can create artworks on a near-human level. make is still an open question being debated online. To protect the company’s brand and its customers, Getty decided to avoid the problem altogether with his ban. That said, Ars Technica searched the Getty Images library and found AI-generated artwork.

Can AI artworks be copyrighted?

While the makers of popular AI image synthesis models insist that their products create copyrighted work, the issue of copyright in AI-generated images is not yet fully resolved. It’s worth pointing out that an oft-cited Smithsonian article entitled “US Copyright Office Rules AI Art Can’t Be Copyrighted” is mistitled and often misunderstood. In that case, a researcher attempted to register an AI algorithm as a non-human copyright owner, which the Copyright Office denied. The copyright owner must be a human (or a group of people, in the case of a company).

Currently, AI image synthesis companies assume that the copyright for AI artworks can be registered with a person or company, just like the output of any other artistic resource. This has strong precedent, and in the Copyright Office’s 2022 decision to dismiss the copyright registry to an AI (as noted above), it referenced a landmark 1884 lawsuit that confirmed the copyright status of photos.

Early in the camera’s history, the suspect in the case (Burrow Giles Lithographic Co. v. Sarony) claimed that photographs could not be copyrighted because a photograph “is a reproduction on paper of the exact characteristics of a natural object or of a person”. In fact, they claimed that a photo is the work of a machine and not a creative expression. Instead, the court ruled that photos may be copyrighted because they are “representatives of original intellectual views of” [an] author.”

People familiar with the AI ​​generative art process as it stands, at least with regard to text-to-image generators, will recognize that their image synthesis outputs are “representatives of original intellectual conceptions of [an] author” as well. Despite misconceptions to the contrary, creative input and guidance from a human is still needed to create image synthesis work, no matter how small the contribution. Even the selection of the tool and the decision to execute it is a creative one. deed .

Under US copyright law, pressing the shutter button on a camera randomly pointed at a wall still assigns copyright to the human who took the photo, and yet the human creative input into an image synthesis artwork can be much more extensive. So it would make sense if the person who initiated the AI-generated work owns the copyright to the image, unless otherwise restricted by license or terms of use.

That said, the issue of AI artwork copyright in the United States has yet to be legally resolved somehow. Stay tuned for further developments.