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While Nick Cave was metaphorically taking ChatGPT to the river and thumping it with a rock, some of the big names in text-to-image AI were facing a new challenge of their own yesterday: a class-action lawsuit from three visual artists.

Sarah Andersen, Kelly McKernan and Karla Ortiz are suing Stability AI, Midjourney and DeviantArt over their concerns that these systems are being “trained on vast amounts of copy­righted work with no con­sent, no credit, and no com­pen­sa­tion”.

Those are the words of Matthew Butterick, a writer and lawyer who is working with the artists on the lawsuit, in a blog post announcing it yesterday. The post went into detail on the problems he sees with the models being used by the three companies, with particular criticism of Stable Diffusion: “A par­a­site that, if allowed to pro­lif­er­ate, will cause irrepara­ble harm to artists, now and in the future.”

The Verge, which first reported the lawsuit, noted that there is already a website up and running picking holes in Butterick’s claims, created by “tech enthusiasts uninvolved in the case”.

This has the potential to be a hugely important lawsuit in terms of setting (or at least influencing) the rules for creative AIs. Music rightsholders, who have been increasingly public with their concerns about music AIs and training sets, will be watching closely.

Indeed, WMG’s Oana Ruxandra addressed the issue in her NY:LON Connect keynote yesterday. “The industry needs to be paid and our artists need to be paid based on the AIs that are learning off their music,” she said.

For more on all this, read our recent roundup of AI music stories from 2022, and our primer on creative music AI from last July.

Music Ally’s next Learn Live webinar will help you understand what’s required for artists to thrive in new international markets!

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Stuart Dredge

Music Ally's Head of Insight

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