Affiliate Disclosure
If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Read our ethics policy.

AI art generators targeted in lawsuit for intellectual property theft

Stable Diffusion Tim Cook

Last updated

A class action lawsuit alleges that the AI art generation engine Stable Diffusion was trained on billions of copyrighted materials without credit, compensation, or consent of content owners.

The Joseph Saveri Law Firm LLP is seeking a class action lawsuit against Stability AI, Midjourney, and DeviantArt for DMCA violations, right of publicity violations, unlawful competition, and a breach of terms of service. The companies allegedly built "artificially intelligent" art generators using millions of users' intellectual property without permission.

Stability AI, Midjourney, and Deviant Art all offer AI art generators built with a product called Stable Diffusion. It is essentially an algorithm that scans large databases of images in order to create new images based on a text prompt.

The image databases used for the tools offered by the offending companies allegedly belonged to customers of the platforms, or other public websites where artwork is shared. The companies allegedly scraped all of this data to create their models, which then create artwork based on the copyrighted material.

"AI needs to be fair and ethical for everyone," said lawyer/programmer Matthew Butterick. "But Stability AI, Midjourney, and DeviantArt are appropriating the work of thousands of artists with no consent, no credit, and no compensation. As a lawyer who is also a longtime member of the visual-arts community, it's a pleasure to stand up on behalf of fellow artists and continue this essential conversation about how we the people want AI to coexist with human culture and creativity."

The term "artificial intelligence" has become a catch-all for any program that generates information or responses using increasingly large datasets. In the case of Stable Diffusion and other programs like it, they are advanced machine learning algorithms capable of processing large amounts of data to create a single image.

According to the lawsuit, if the input to the algorithm is copyrighted images and information, then the output would be an infringement of the copyright if used without permission. This would allegedly eliminate the need for artists and replace them with the AI art tool.

The class action lawsuit aims to seek redress for wrongful conduct and prevent taking over artists' jobs by protecting them using the same laws that enable streaming music services to exist.

The filing was made by the Joseph Saver Law Firm LLP along with Matthew Butterick, and Lockridge, Grindal, Nauen P.L.L.P. It is filed with the United States District Court for the Northern District of California on behalf of a class of plaintiffs seeking compensation for damages caused by Stability AI, DeviantArt, and Midjourney.