Text-to-image art generators powered by artificial intelligence (AI) have spurred lively debates over the supposed end of society’s need for trained visual artists. Technology has already spawned a bevy of amateur artists using AI, including Reid Hoffman, founder of employment platform LinkedIn. He used the DALL-E platform – and the creator’s OpenAI commercial rights policy – to produce a series of AI-generated artworks and sell them on the NFT marketplace Magic Eden. One sold for the equivalent of $24,000.
Now established artists like Greg Rutkowski have been drawn into the debate. The Poland-based digital creator has illustrated fantasy scenes for well-known role-playing games such as: dungeons and Magic the Gathering. But his art has become so popular that many online fans are now using AI to mimic his style.
MIT’s Technology Review reports that Rutkowski’s name is among the most used prompts on Midjourney and Stable Diffusion, two popular open-access AI image generators, where users have entered Rutkowski’s name 93,000 times. That’s far more than user requests for Michelangelo- or Picasso-style images, whose names have each been used as a request no more than 2,000 times. The Disco Diffusion platform even suggests his name as a tryout prompt.
In an email to Artnet News, Rutkowski said he only discovered AI art a few months ago. “I saw a lot of my art friends posting news about it just before I started getting messages with my name on it [was] 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.”
Initially, Rutkowski viewed his newfound popularity on the AI platforms as a route to new audiences. But when he did an internet search for his own name for other reasons, works in his style that he was not involved with turned up.
Text-to-image generators search the web for images that provide visual knowledge to the algorithms. Of course, Rutkowski’s fantasy-inspired work tackles issues that are suited to AI’s purposes – creating otherwise impossible scenes.
However there technology review pointed out that AI image scrapers inadvertently punish Rutkowski for his decision to make his work more accessible. The artist regularly uses alternative text descriptions when posting his images online to make them readable for the visually impaired. But this information also makes it easier to browse through data and understand the AI algorithms.
Stability.AI, the company behind the Stable Diffusion platform, trained their algorithm on LAION’s dataset of more than 5 billion image-text pairings. The German non-profit organization has excluded watermarked images and non-art images such as brand logos from its collection. But technologist and writer Andy Baio analyzed 12 million of the dataset’s images for technology review and found that 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 runs on a database of images harvested without the original creators’ permission, Stability.AI’s license agreement exempts them from responsibility for how their technology is used. AI users must abide by a code of honor for copyright infringement, but there is no enforcement against rule-breakers.
“AI should exclude living artists from its database,” Rutkowski said, and instead “focus on works in the public domain.” He adds that “there is a huge financial problem in taking AI from 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 oversees the art career of her husband Steve Henderson, a popular commercial artist who paints landscapes and figurative scenes. She has fought to remove the existence of his work from Stable Diffusion’s database, but her requests have been loud “neither confirmed nor answered”. technology review. Rutkowski has had a similar experience and has even asked others to contact LAION directly – but still hasn’t received a response. “Since no one has ever asked me to use my work, I have no other help than my art friends,” he said.
Artnet News is also awaiting comment from LAION.
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