Getty Images is suing the makers of an AI image generator tool for alleged copyright infringement.
On Tuesday, the stock image supplier announced it was starting legal proceedings in the UK against the Stability AI alleging the company “unlawfully copied and processed millions of images protected by copyright and the associated metadata owned or represented by Getty Images.” Essentially, Stability AI is accused of scraping images from the Getty digital library without paying for a license or compensating the image creators.
Apparently, Stability AI wasn’t informed directly of Getty’s legal action. “Please know that we take these matters seriously. It is unusual that we have been informed about this intended legal action via the press,” a spokesperson told Mashable in an email. “We are still awaiting the service of any documents. Should we receive them, we will comment appropriately.”
Stability AI makes Stable Diffusion, a popular tool for generating AI images. By entering a text prompt like “dog lying in the sun,” Stability Diffusion generates unique images based the text. The tool’s artificial intelligence learns what kind of imagery to create by consuming massive amounts of images found on the internet, which makes it smarter and more accurate over time.
Since image generating AI companies like Stability AI, DALL-E, and NightCafe rely on images and artistic styles created by humans, the issue of intellectual property is murky and uncharted territory. And the increasing popularity of these tools has brought copyright laws to the forefront of the conversation.
Regarding the copyright for using the tool’s generated images, Stable Diffusion’s site says, “The area of AI-generated images and copyright is complex and will vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.”
Stable Diffusion also says the images created are open source and protected by the CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication. All in all, it’s an entirely new area in the realm of IP and copyright law that doesn’t have a straightforward answer.
Getty Images declined to provide further detail upon Mashable’s request.
UPDATE: Jan. 17, 2023, 5:45 p.m. EST This story was updated to include comment from a Stability AI spokesperson.