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‘AI should exclude living artists from its database,’ says painter whose works have been used to power image generators

By on September 20, 2022 0

Artificial intelligence (AI)-powered text-to-image art generators have sparked heated debates about the supposed end of society’s need for trained visual artists. The technology has already launched a slew of hobby artists who use AI, including Reid Hoffman, the founder of job platform LinkedIn. It leveraged the DALL-E platform and OpenAI creator’s commercial rights policy to make and sell a series of AI-generated artworks in the NFT Magic Eden marketplace. One sold for the equivalent of $24,000.

Now, established artists like Greg Rutkowski have been dragged into the debate. The Poland-based digital creator has illustrated fantastic scenes for well-known role-playing games, like Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering. But his art has become so popular that many online fans are now using AI to mimic his style.

from MIT Technology Review reports that Rutkowski’s name ranks among the most used prompts on Midjourney and Stable Diffusion, two popular open-source AI image generators, where users entered Rutkowski’s name 93,000 times. That’s far more than user requests for images similar to the style of Michelangelo or Picasso, whose names were used as prompts no more than 2,000 times each. The Disco Diffusion platform has even suggest his name as an example prompt.

In an email to Artnet News, Rutkowski said he only discovered AI-created art a few months ago. “I saw a lot of my artist friends posting about it, right before I started getting messages saying that my name [was] be used as a prompt,” he explained. “I wasn’t really interested in AI as a tool to use or experiment with. Somehow I didn’t see it as a useful tool in my workflow. »

Greg Rutkowski, Sunrise over the harbor (2018). Courtesy of the artist.

At first, Rutkowski saw his newfound popularity on AI platforms as an avenue to new audiences. But when he searched the web for his own name for other reasons, works in his style that he had no part in creating came up.

Text-to-image generators scour the web for images that provide algorithms with visual knowledge. Rutkowski’s fantasy-inspired work naturally deals with subjects suitable for AI purposes, creating otherwise impossible scenes.

However, as Technology Review pointed out, AI image scrapers inadvertently punish Rutkowski for his decision to make his work more accessible. The artist regularly uses alt text descriptions when posting his images online to make them readable by visually impaired people. But this information also makes it easier for data to retrieve and easier for AI algorithms to understand.

Stability.AI, the firm behind the Stable Diffusion platform, trained its algorithm on LIONof more than 5 billion image-text associations. The German non-profit organization has excluded images with watermarks and non-artistic images like brand logos from its collection. But technologist and writer Andy Baio analyzed 12 million images from the dataset to Technology Review and found many come from sites like Pinterest and Fine Art America. Rutkowski’s work has likely been removed from his portfolio on ArtStation.

Despite the fact that its AI works on a database of images harvested without the permissions of the original creators, Stability.AI’s licensing agreement releases them from responsibility for the use of their technology. AI users must abide by an honor code for copyright infringement, but there’s no enforcement against rule breakers.

Greg Rutkowski, Secret Pass — Eagle’s Nest (2017)

“AI should exclude living artists from its database,” Rutkowski said, and “focus on public domain works instead.” He adds that “there is a huge financial problem in scaling AI from a non-profit research to a commercial project without asking artists” for permission to use their work.

Technology Review cited the plight of Carolyn Henderson, who manages the artistic career of her husband Steve Henderson, a popular commercial artist who paints landscapes and figurative scenes. She fought to have her work’s presence removed from Stable Diffusion’s database, but her demands were “neither acknowledged nor responded to”, according to Technology review. Rutkowski had a similar experience and even begged others to contact LAION directly, but still had no response. “Since no one asked me to use my works in the first place, I have no help other than my artist friends,” he said.

Artnet News is also awaiting comments from LAION.

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