From MIT Technology Review:
Those cool AI-generated images you’ve seen across the internet? There’s a good chance they are based on the works of Greg Rutkowski.
Rutkowski is a Polish digital artist who uses classical painting styles to create dreamy fantasy landscapes. He has made illustrations for games such as Sony’s Horizon Forbidden West, Ubisoft’s Anno, Dungeons & Dragons, and Magic: The Gathering. And he’s become a sudden hit in the new world of text-to-image AI generation.
His distinctive style is now one of the most commonly used prompts in the new open-source AI art generator Stable Diffusion, which was launched late last month. The tool, along with other popular image-generation AI models, allows anyone to create impressive images based on text prompts.
For example, type in “Wizard with sword and a glowing orb of magic fire fights a fierce dragon Greg Rutkowski,” and the system will produce something that looks not a million miles away from works in Rutkowski’s style.
But these open-source programs are built by scraping images from the internet, often without permission and proper attribution to artists. As a result, they are raising tricky questions about ethics and copyright. And artists like Rutkowski have had enough.
According to the website Lexica, which tracks over 10 million images and prompts generated by Stable Diffusion, Rutkowski’s name has been used as a prompt around 93,000 times. Some of the world’s most famous artists, such as Michelangelo, Pablo Picasso, and Leonardo da Vinci, brought up around 2,000 prompts each or less. Rutkowski’s name also features as a prompt thousands of times in the Discord of another text-to-image generator, Midjourney.
Rutkowski was initially surprised but thought it might be a good way to reach new audiences. Then he tried searching for his name to see if a piece he had worked on had been published. The online search brought back work that had his name attached to it but wasn’t his.
“It’s been just a month. What about in a year? I probably won’t be able to find my work out there because [the internet] will be flooded with AI art,” Rutkowski says. “That’s concerning.”
Stability.AI, the company that built Stable Diffusion, trained the model on the LAION-5B data set, which was compiled by the German nonprofit LAION. LAION put the data set together and narrowed it down by filtering out watermarked images and those that were not aesthetic, such as images of logos, says Andy Baio, a technologist and writer who downloaded and analyzed some of Stable Diffusion’s data. Baio analyzed 12 million of the 600 million images used to train the model and found that a large chunk of them come from third-party websites such as Pinterest and art shopping sites such as Fine Art America.
Many of Rutkowski’s artworks have been scraped from ArtStation, a website where lots of artists upload their online portfolios. His popularity as an AI prompt stems from a number of reasons.
First, his fantastical and ethereal style looks very cool. He is also prolific, and many of his illustrations are available online in high enough quality, so there are plenty of examples to choose from. An early text-to-image generator called Disco Diffusion offered Rutkowski as an example prompt.
Rutkowski has also added alt text in English when uploading his work online. These descriptions of the images are useful for people with visual impairments who use screen reader software, and they help search engines rank the images as well. This also makes them easy to scrape, and the AI model knows which images are relevant to prompts.
. . . .
Other artists besides Rutkowski have been surprised by the apparent popularity of their work in text-to-image generators—and some are now fighting back. Karla Ortiz, an illustrator based in San Francisco who found her work in Stable Diffusion’s data set, has been raising awareness about the issues around AI art and copyright.
Artists say they risk losing income as people start using AI-generated images based on copyrighted material for commercial purposes. But it’s also a lot more personal, Ortiz says, arguing that because art is so closely linked to a person, it could raise data protection and privacy problems.
“There is a coalition growing within artist industries to figure out how to tackle or mitigate this,” says Ortiz. The group is in its early days of mobilization, which could involve pushing for new policies or regulation.
Link to the rest at MIT Technology Review and thanks to R. for the tip in the comments.
PG predicts there will be more than one copyright infringement suit filed against various individuals, institutions and companies providing AI services in which an artist’s copyrighted work was used to seed the AI.
In the United States, such suits will almost certainly be filed in the federal court system since copyright is governed by federal law. Some states have laws that would seem to give exclusive rights to publish state documents to the state or those to whom the state has given permission to make and sell copies of state documents, but trying to protect a creative work from republication under anything other than pursuant to federal copyright laws and decisions is generally regarded as a fool’s errand.
One thing that judges do when faced with a novel question is to draw from similar situations that have occurred previously.
As one crude example, if an individual uses a computer and a software program created by third parties to make an exact copy of of the text of a copyright-protected book, the manufacturer of the computer or the company that created and sold the word processing program used to make a copy of the book will not be liable for copyright infringement because they only provided tools and the author used the tools in the manner the author chose.
AI art programs require a prompt to create anything images. The OP mentions the use of an artists name in an AI prompt as one way of generating an image.
However, that decision is not made by the creators/owners of the AI program, but rather by the user. The creators of the AI program ran a huge number of images by an an enormous number of artists through the program’s processor. Is it a violation of copyright law to link an artist’s name to a painting the artist created? PG doesn’t think so.
As a matter of fact, using Mr. Rutkowski’s work without attribution would also be an offense against the creator.
PG doesn’t see the creation of works “inspired by” an artist constituting copyright infringement when they aren’t copies of what the artist created or closely resembling what an artist created. PG doesn’t believe that an artistic style is protected by copyright.
If PG’s understanding of the way AI art programs work is to deconstruct the original copy of the image into its component parts and assign some sort of marker to the parts such that a prompt for a large building in the style of the British Museum won’t generate an image dominated by a dragon.
PG just created a prompt, “Windsor Castle sailing on the ocean” and ran it through an AI art generator. Here’s what he got.
Next, PG modified his prompt to read “Windsor Castle sailing on the ocean Greg Rutkowski” and this is what he got:
For one last experiment PG created another prompt with a different artist, “Windsor Castle sailing on the ocean Andy Warhol” and here’s what showed up.
PG is not an art expert, but he doesn’t think any of his AI illustrations will put either Mr. Rutkowski or Mr. Warhol out of business.