Three AI image generators—DeviantArt, Midjourney and Stability AI—have been served with a major class action lawsuit, in an effort to defend artists. These platforms have been accused of unlawful competition, right of publicity violations and DMCA violations, and the lawsuit states that artists must be protected and compensated for their work.
AI Image Generators and the Law
This lawsuit was filed against Midjourney, DeviantArt and Stability AI by Lockridge Grindal Nauen P.L.L. P. and the Joseph Saveri Law Firm on behalf of plaintiffs that seek compensation for artwork that was used as well as an injunction to prevent future infringement. The complaint argues that these companies have developed products that infringe artists’ rights in the name of artificial intelligence (AI). The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. It alleges direct copyright infringement in addition to vicarious copyright infringement in relation to forgeries, as well as violations of the DMCA, breach of contract, violation of class members’ rights of publicity and other violations under the state’s unfair competition laws.
Stable Diffusion – Infringing Technology
All three AI generators use Stable Diffusion, which is an AI product that uses deep learning and billions of copyrighted images, which form the LAION-5B database, to generate “new” images based on text descriptions. These original copyrighted images are downloaded and used by the software without the artist’s consent and with no compensation. When text descriptions are being created, the images are used to “train” the AI system so that other imagery could be created from those text descriptions.
Do AI Image Generators Threaten Artists?
The lawsuit maintains that if these types of products are allowed to continue, they will replace the artists whose work is being stolen and used to run the AI products that are in fact their competition. This would not only be an infringement against the artists’ rights, but this technology could in time replace the traditional creator so that being an artist is no longer a viable career. This would include photographers, illustrators, painters and sculptors, in addition to other artists.
It is argued that since legal music streaming exists, with artists being compensated for their works, then it should be the same situation with AI image generators. Already, artists are experiencing the financial fallout caused by this new technology, and art students are questioning their career decisions. Are videos and films the next artistic creations in danger of being threatened by AI generators?