Getty Images announced on Wednesday that it is banning AI-generated art, including images produced by OpenAI’s DALL-E and Meta AI’s Make-A-Scene, from its platform. The decision, according to Getty, stems from concerns that copyright laws are currently unsettled with regard to imagery created by those tools.
“There are real concerns with respect to the copyright of outputs from these models and unaddressed rights issues with respect to the imagery, the image metadata and those individuals contained within the imagery,” Getty Images CEO Craig Peters told the Verge. “We are being proactive to the benefit of our customers.”
The concern over copyright is not unfounded. AI image generators scrape publicly available pictures from across the web to train their algorithms and to sample them when producing new imagery. Those images are often copyrighted ones that come from news sites or even stock photo sites like Getty. As Gizmodo noted, tech blogger Andy Baio analyzed the image set used by Stable Diffusion, an AI tool similar to DALL-E produced by Stability AI, and found that 35,000 of the 12 million images were scraped from stock photo sites.
Whether that usage violates U.S. copyright law is an open question for the courts. Typically, to use copyrighted material, a creator has to demonstrate that the copying was done for a “transformative” purpose, which generally falls into commentary, criticism, or parody of material in question, as noted by the Stanford Libraries’ primer on Fair Use doctrine. The question of whether images produced by DALL-E and other AI tools constitute a “transformative” purpose is, at best, murky due to the automated nature of their production.
Many in the arts and the AI space have noted that it will likely take new legislation to settle the question.
“On the business side, we need some clarity around copyright before using AI-generated work instead of work by a human artist,” Jason Juan, an art director and artist with clients including Disney and Warner Bros., told Forbes last week. “The problem is, the current copyright law is outdated and is not keeping up with the technology.”
Similarly, Daniela Braga, who is on the White House Task Force for AI Policy, said a “legislative solution” is necessary.
“If these models have been trained on the styles of living artists without licensing that work, there are copyright implications,” Braga told Forbes.
In the meantime, Getty has said it is using the Coalition for Content Provenance and Authenticity, an industry-created development project, to filter out AI-generated content. It’s unclear whether such a tool will be effective.