Stability AI, Midjourney, and DeviantArt Are Being Sued by Artists

Patrick Devaney
Jan 17, 2023

With all the hype surrounding generative AI tools like ChatGPT, DALL-E 2, and Stable Diffusion it is easy to overlook the controversy that is attached to them. These tools scrape vast swathes of data which are then used to train their models to give them their impressive generative skills. The image generators in particular have been causing artists across the internet to take to the web in rage at this new way that tech companies have found to exploit them. It looks, however, like the artist community might be about to start fighting back, however, with a group of artists launching a lawsuit against Stability AI, Midjourney, and DeviantArt.

Three artists, Sarah Andersen, Kelly McKernan, and Karla Ortiz have launched a lawsuit against Stability AI, Midjourney, and the artist portfolio platform DeviantArt, which are behind AI art generators Stable Diffusion and Midjourney, and DreamUp.

The three artists claim that the companies in question have infringed upon their rights plus the rights of millions of artists around the world by training their AI tools on billions of images scraped from the internet. They allege that this process has been done without the consent of the artists of the original works scraped in this way.

The lawyers behind the case are also involved in a similar lawsuit against Microsoft, GitHub, and OpenAI regarding an AI programming model called CoPilot. In that case, the plaintiffs claim that the code used to train the models is reproduced open-source code.

Further to the unlicensed use of artworks to train the algorithms, it seems the case also relates to the danger these new tools pose for artists with Matthew Butterick, one of the lawyers involved in the case, saying in the blog post announcing the lawsuit that the case is “another step toward mak­ing AI fair and ethical for every­one.” Particularly in a context where these types of tools can easily flood the market with huge numbers of these types of images. He claims this is completely unfair as the images are essentially derived from copies of the original artwork.

Generally, there has been a strong reaction from the art community over these new tools, with opinions mostly split. While some artists are outraged by the invasive data practices and the apparent threat to their livelihoods these new tools represent, others see these new tools as just that, new tools in a similar vein to more impressive iterations of graphic design software.

These types of cases, however, have no real precedent so they do mark important stages in the legal recourses that will be available should you feel aggrieved by the work of an algorithm. The fair use doctrine will likely apply to data being used in this manner, but even so, lawsuits involving the fair use doctrine often end up in messy court battles. This is definitely something worth keeping an eye on.

Stability AI, Midjourney, and DeviantArt Are Being Sued by Artists
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Stability AI, Midjourney, and DeviantArt Are Being Sued by Artists
A trio of artists are suing some of the major companies behind text-to-image art generators saying that they have been trained on the work of human artists without their permission.
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  1. Anonymous said on January 17, 2023 at 11:02 pm

    Hopefully this case is tossed out. Screaming babies like Sarah Andersen, Kelly McKernan, and Karla Ortiz are trying to destroy progress. These dunces need to get a grip and accept these as techniques to further improve their artwork. The days of traditional artists are gone. When using Photoshop and Lightroom, what do they believe they are using? It’s all AI now. Everything traditional artists have ever created has been surpassed by Stability AI and Midjourney already.

    1. Anthony said on January 18, 2023 at 9:13 am

      Spoken like a * [Editor: removed], eh? Do you even understand the legal grounds behind this process? It’s not about being against progress, you [Editor: removed] tech bro, it’s about copyright infringement.

  2. Mike said on January 17, 2023 at 5:26 pm

    I’ve no sympathy for Deviantart. They’re one of the entities who have redesigned their website to be more and more terrible. Now you can’t even use the search feature without signing in. Basically the website is completely useless without an account now, even as a casual passer-by who isn’t interested in submitting anything.

    And we all know that all of this ultra-hostile user redesign, is so that companies can track and profile your every move, and then monetize that data in any and every way possible.

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