Getty Images Sues Stability AI for Copyright Infringement

Getty Images, the stock image supplier, is suing Stability AI for allegedly stealing copyrighted content to train its AI art creator, Stable Diffusion. Getty Images claims that Stability AI unlawfully copied and processed millions of copyright-protected images without seeking a license, and did so for their own commercial benefit to the detriment of content creators. The legal proceedings have been filed in London’s High Court of Justice against Stability AI.

Stable Diffusion is a text-to-image generator that can create new images based on a sentence a user inputs, combining different concepts, attributes and styles. These AI models, like Midjourney and DALL-E, are trained using a massive amount of existing images. However, concerns have been raised that some of the content used to train these models could be copyright protected and taken without the consent of artists.

An analysis of 12 million images used to train Stable Diffusion last year found that around 47% were sourced from only 100 domains, with the largest number of images (around 8.5%) coming from Pinterest. This analysis also suggested that some of these training images could be copyright protected.

In response to these concerns, Getty Images issued a ban on the upload and sale of AI-generated images on its platform last September. The company stated that this was due to “open questions” surrounding the copyright of AI-generated images, along with uncertainty surrounding the data these AI models are trained on. Getty Images also stated that it has provided licenses to “leading technology innovators” for the purpose of training AI systems in a way that respects personal and intellectual property rights.

In a statement on its legal proceedings, Getty Images said that Stability AI did not seek any such license from Getty Images and instead, they believe, chose to ignore viable licensing options and long-standing legal protections in pursuit of their standalone commercial interests.

AI-generated images became prevalent last year as various text-to-image models surged in popularity. These models offer new possibilities for users, including using their generations for commercial purposes. However, legal questions have been raised, such as who truly owns the images and if they might infringe on existing copyrighted works. JumpStory co-founder Jonathan Løw said last September that there is a growing “legal minefield” around using AI-generated images for commercial purposes. He also stated that the legal risk may fall on the end-user if their commercially used image enters a copyright dispute.

This week, a group of artists launched a lawsuit against Stability AI and Midjourney for allegedly taking the work of “millions of artists” without their consent, The Verge reports. The lawsuit further highlights the legal challenges and uncertainty surrounding the use of AI-generated images, and the need for clear guidelines and regulations in this area.

As the use of AI-generated images becomes more prevalent, it is important for companies to consider the legal implications and ensure that they are not infringing on any copyrights. Getty Images' lawsuit against Stability AI serves as a reminder to companies that they must obtain proper licenses and permissions before using copyrighted content to train their AI models.

The lawsuit also raises questions about the ownership of AI-generated images. Are they considered to be original works created by the AI, or are they considered to be derived from the copyrighted images used to train the model? This is a complex legal issue that will likely be addressed in the courts in the coming months and years.

Furthermore, the lawsuit highlights the need for clear guidelines and regulations surrounding the use of AI-generated images. As the technology continues to evolve, it is important that copyright laws and policies keep pace with the changes and protect the rights of both content creators and companies using the technology.

In the meantime, companies should be cautious when using AI-generated images and ensure that they are not infringing on any copyrights. Getty Images' lawsuit against Stability AI serves as a warning to companies and highlights the importance of obtaining proper licenses and permissions before using copyrighted content to train AI models.

As the legal battle between Getty Images and Stability AI unfolds, it will be interesting to see how the court addresses the issue of copyright infringement in relation to AI-generated images, and how it will shape the future of the industry.

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