Let the Lawsuits Against Generative AI Begin!
Getty Sues Stability AI as Lawsuits Mount Against GenAI Companies
Hi there, I'm Zach Abramowitz, and I am Legally Disrupted.
Well, it was bound to happen. Anytime you have a phenomenon as disruptive as generative AI, you can expect lawsuits.
Case in point: the lawsuit recently filed by Getty Images against Stability AI, highlighting the ongoing legal challenges posed by the use of AI in the creative industries. But it’s not the only lawsuit recently filed, see e.g. Now artists sue AI image generation tools Stable Diffusion, Midjourney over copyright | Technology News,The Indian Express
First, let's take a closer look at the company at the center of this legal battle: Stability AI. Our focus in this newsletter will be on Stability AI's text-to-image model, Stable Diffusion, which they built by scraping the web for images, including Getty images. It was released as open-source (for free) in August 2022. Stability AI also built a for-profit service called DreamStudio, which packages Stable Diffusion's abilities for use by non-coders. This is where things become tricky, as scraping images provides the foundation for a “for-profit” business. Still, it's unclear whether artists' works should be scraped for open-source use.
A critical component of this puzzle is understanding that models like Stable Diffusion generate original images on their own. There is no copying involved. Each text in the algorithm creates a unique image, and if you use the same text again, you'll get a slightly different image. As with humans, web images merely teach the model how to create its own images. As Newton famously wrote to Robert Hooke in 1675 “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants”.
Getty Images is alleging that the company's software infringed on Getty's copyrights by using Getty images without permission. Getty argues that the creators of Stability AI have infringed on their copyrights by using their images without permission and profiting from them. They say the AI-generated images are indistinguishable from the original and that this is a violation of their rights as copyright holders. But as I noted above, Stable Diffusion is, technically speaking, generating original images which makes this lawsuit unchartered territory.
The creators of Stability AI could argue that their software falls under fair use, a legal doctrine that allows for the limited use of copyrighted material without permission for the purposes of criticism, commentary, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research. They will likely argue that the software is being used for creative and transformative purposes and not for commercial gain. They will also likely argue that the images generated are new and original creations, and not just copies of the original images. And they may not be wrong.
Needless to say, the outcome of this lawsuit will have significant implications for the future of AI and the creative industries. It raises important questions about the limits of fair use in the context of AI and whether current copyright laws are equipped to address the challenges posed by new technologies.
I asked ChatGPT who was right + what the best outcome for society would be and, ever the politician, it refused to answer my questions. But here’s my take: GenAI is disruptive, and anything that shakes things up this much and grabs the public attention is going to generate lawsuits (no pun intended). My own guess is that AI is too powerful to reign in, and the proverbial genie has been let out of the bottle. But I’ll be keeping a close eye on this case and any other legal battles that may arise from the use of AI in the creative industries, so stay tuned.
I'm Zach Abramowitz and YOU have been Legally Disrupted. Thank you for being my most favorite audience.
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GenerativeAI sounds like an illness to me and it’s a mouthful. From now on, I’m going to call it GenAI.