Artificial Intelligence (AI) continues to be a unique challenge facing the modern world today. The quick rate of growth in AI's developments has made several sectors wary, not excluding Intellectual Property. Recently, Getty Images, an American-British visual media company famous for supplying stock images, has sued an AI company for allegedly violating their copyright. Filed in London's High Court, the case offers yet another intriguing and difficult debacle between IP and AI, which could give important implications for the future relationship between the two worlds.
The defendant is Stability AI, the company behind the art-focused AI named Stable Diffusion. Stable Diffusion is known for producing original, intricate images that we may have thought weren't possible before. Herewith are a few examples:
Moreover, Stable Diffusion impressively (or frighteningly) is also able to produce hyper realistic images that could perhaps pass as photographs. Such as the images seen below:
Given the nature of these images, one doesn't need to wonder how an image library rights holder like Getty Images could be troubled by Stable Diffusion's practices.
The primary dispute between the two parties concerns Stable Diffusion's method of producing images. Stable Diffusion operates on a text-to-images system. A human user inputs a general idea, such as "two mountains," in which Stable Diffusion would process millions of images based on that idea in order to generate an entirely original image.
Getty Images took issue with Stable Diffusion's method of processing existing images, insisting that most of the images are copyrighted and the AI company doesn't have the authorization to process them and use the result for commercial purposes. In a statement by Getty Images, they maintain that their company is well aware of AI's method of generating images, in which they prepared training programs for AIs to "respect IP rights." However, Stability AI did not partake in the program or seek to license.
"Getty Images provided licenses to leading technology innovators for purposes related to training artificial intelligence systems in a manner that respects personal and intellectual property rights. Stability AI did not seek any such license from Getty Images and instead, we believe, chose to ignore viable licensing options and long-standing legal protections in pursuit of their stand-alone commercial interests", Reads a statement by a Getty Images representative.
Concerning this, Waxy.Org conducted an independent study in which they found that much of Stable Diffusion's data was pulled directly from Getty Images' website. So much so that the images generated by the AI could sometimes contain a version of the Getty watermarks.
We have discussed before the challenges of engaging with AI in relation to IP. Many of the problems are rooted in the law's lack of preparation for AI. Its inherently unique characteristics could potentially exploit vacuums in the legislature. Thus, it is vastly important for lawmakers to adapt to the present (and future) situation.
Interestingly, Getty Images is conscious of this urgency. In an interview with the Verge, Getty Images' CEO, Craig Peters, maintains that they are not interested in monetary damages but seek to form a new legal precedent concerning the matter. "I think there are ways of building generative models that respect intellectual Property. I equate this to Napster and Spotify. Spotify negotiated with intellectual property rights holders — labels and artists — to create a service. You can debate whether they're fairly compensated in that, but it's a negotiation based on the rights of individuals and entities. And that's what we're looking for, rather than a singular entity benefiting off the backs of others. That's the long-term goal of this action", stated Peters.
The case between Getty Images and Stable Diffusion could be detrimental to the IP world's attitude towards AIs for years to come. Given the increasing relevance of AI, and technology in general, to all walks of life, the potential legal precedent that spawns from it could paint the future of IPs as a whole. The unavoidable crash between innovative tech and the IP is a reality that professionals must prepare for. Whatever the outcome, we at Am Badar & Am Badar will be ready to adapt accordingly. For quality services related to IP, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org