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Sophie Cameron

Features and Opinion Editor, Solicitors Journal

Getty Images files copyright claim against makers of AI image generating tool

Getty Images files copyright claim against makers of AI image generating tool


Claim filed in the UK High Court against Stability AI

Getty Images announced in January that it has begun legal proceedings against Stability AI, the maker of a free image generating tool, in the High Court of Justice in London for alleged violation of copyright.

Visual media company, Getty Images, which has more than 135 million copyrighted images in its archives, claims that Stability AI “unlawfully copied and processed millions of images protected by copyright and the associated metadata” that are owned or represented by the company without a licence. According to a statement issued by Getty Images, such alleged copyright violations benefited Stability AI’s commercial interests to the detriment of the content creators.

Artificial intelligence (AI) image generators use human-made images, including images scraped from the web, in order to train the software to create unique images from simple text instructions. Some artists and photographers have claimed that their work is frequently used in this way without their permission.

Getty Images has provided licences to technology firms to use its content in order to train AI systems. The company asserts that Stability AI did not seek to secure such a licence from Getty Images in order to use its images within its AI image tool Stable Diffusion.

A new report entitled ‘Communications and Digital Committee at Risk: Our Creative Future’ was published by the House of Lords on 17 January, which includes contributions from an array of industry experts on the benefits and risks to the UK government’s proposed changes to intellectual property (IP) law in light of new technology. The report concludes that the Intellectual Property Office should pause its proposed changes to the text and data mining regime immediately in order to conduct an impact assessment on the implications of AI and new technology for the creative industries. In addition to this, the report explains that “New technologies are making it easier and cheaper to reproduce and distribute creative works and image likenesses. Timely Government action is needed to prevent such disruption resulting in avoidable harm, or production moving to countries with better regulation.”

Meanwhile, a class-action lawsuit has been filed by several artists in the USA against Stability AI and several other companies for the alleged use of their images to train the Stability Diffusion system.