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5.2: What’s the big deal?

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    So why is AI image generation so contentious?

    The primary reason is based on how these models are trained. In order to build an AI image generator, the developer must use millions or even billions images. Stable Diffusion, for example, was trained on around 2.3 billion images. Many of these images have been “scraped” from the internet without the consent of the original creators.

    This leads to problems with attribution, and with the potential for these AI image generators to reproduce art in another artist’s style. I’m sure you’ve seen posts already with AI generated art in the style of Van Gogh or Rembrandt. However, it also applies to living artists and photographers whose work has been scraped from sites like artstation and Flikr.

    There’s the additional problem of whether the current copyright laws extend to work created “by a machine”. Although AI images are generated by a human controlling the input via the prompt, it has been argued that the actual image is created by the AI, and not the human. This throws a legal roadblock in the way of copyrighting AI art.

    US law states that intellectual property can be copyrighted only if it was the product of human creativity, and the USCO only acknowledges work authored by humans at present. Machines and generative AI algorithms, therefore, cannot be authors, and their outputs are not copyrightable.


    Jason Allen’s Théâtre D’opéra Spatial won first place in the Colorado State Fair, until the artist revealed it was generated in Midjourney and declined the prize. Since then, the artist has not been able to get copyright status for the work.

    5.2: What’s the big deal? is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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