Opinion: AI art generators are robbing the future of creativity and art

Generators like Stable Diffusion harm current independent artists by taking inspiration from their work with no credit to them

Emma Clement, JagWire editor-in-chief, Mill Valley News editor-in-chief

Almost everyone has been called a copycat before. It’s within human nature to feel inspired by someone’s work and want to accomplish that same greatness. 

But we’ve also all been on the other side of this and felt the annoyance that comes with someone calling your work their own. This annoyance is what many artists are feeling about recent gains in the popularity of AI art generators.

Stable Diffusion, the AI art generator that serves as the basis for many of the programs commonly used online, is an open-source image-spawning program. This program allows users to type out descriptions of an image and the AI will generate that image.

But what many users of these generators don’t understand is that they take aspects of already existing art from databases, often without the knowledge of the artists that created the pieces the AI is learning from. 

This is the case of Kelly McKernan, Karla Ortiz and Sarah Anderson, the three artists behind a recent lawsuit against AI art generators.

For McKernan, finding out that her art was an inspiration was initially exciting. But she soon realized that the generator allowed anyone to type in her name and create an original piece of art in her style, with no credit to her whatsoever. This realization made McKernan angry on behalf of all artists. Ortiz and Anderson shared similar feelings.

A world in which anyone can generate art in an instant creates a lessened need for independent artists like McKernan. It’s also harmful because generators like Stable Diffusion create art in specific artists’ styles in an instant with no credit to them, even though it may have taken the artists hours to create the original piece.

Art generators are not only unfair to current artists, they are also discouraging to potential future artists. 

As a person who has considered a career in art, knowing that my work could be used in this way makes me wary of pursuing this route. This thought is not uncommon which should be incredibly worrying.

Whether it be graffiti to support a movement or a fine art piece about injustice, art is a vehicle for social change. Furthermore, art is entertainment; animated movies could not exist without digital artists. Finally, art contains great cultural and historical relevance. There is a reason many history classes include art in their curriculums.

The fact that art is essential means that it needs to be protected. Unregulated AI art generators, like Stable Diffusion, are threatening artists’ rights worldwide, thus government regulation and clarified protection of artists’ rights to their work is key to navigating this new world of AI generated art.

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