Three artists are suing the creators of image-generating software Midjourney and Stable Diffusion, claiming that this computer software was trained using their artwork without permission. It is the most direct copyright challenge so far to "AI art" technology—or at least to the indiscriminate use of high-quality training material. This follows a similar lawsuit aimed at GitHub Copilot, which does likewise with code.
Butterick, a lawyer and typographer, has set up a website dedicated to the lawsuit launched on Friday. "Today, we're taking another step toward making AI fair & ethical for everyone," he writes. He accuses the artificially intelligent (AI) image generators of being "a 21st-century collage tool that remixes the copyright works of millions of artists whose work was used as training data." One of the plaintiffs, Karla Oritz, took to Twitter to explain further about the suit. "As I learned more about how the deeply exploitative AI media models practices I realized there was no legal precedent to set this right. Let's change that," she writes. "I am proud to be one of the plaintiffs named for this class action suit. I am proud to do this with fellow peers, that we'll give a voice to potentially thousands of affected artists. I'm proud that now we fight for our rights not just in the public sphere but in the courts."
An interesting thing about this debate is that while it's true that artists don't understand the technology, it's also true that technologists don't understand the law. (That lawyers don't understand art may be taken for granted, but Butterick is a well-honored exception)