The topic of artificially generated art (AI art) has been making waves within the tech and art industries as the growing popularity of the auto-generated pictures raise concerns for the threat to the authenticity of art. If you've been on social media lately, you have probably witnessed all the pretty auto-generated pictures that have been circulating like wildfire on apps like Instagram and Twitter. While interesting from a tech standpoint, people forget the ethical implications of using this kind of software: Where does the data come from? AI-generated data function by pulling samples of art from the internet and the images that are generated by artificial intelligence (AI) is based on user text prompts and common keywords that can be used by literally anyone, which raises the questions is it ethical, plagiarism, and infringing upon artists rights? 

While AI art is not necessarily a new development, many new AI art programs such as Dream, Night Cafe and Midjourney have become increasingly popular. The viral Lensa App “Magic Avatar,” and  DALL-E Mini saw traffic skyrocket with unique avatars or funny renditions that look like they were created by an actual digital artist. Additionally, the quality of AI art has exceedingly improved generating better results. Unfortunately these apps are making a profit while the works of millions of artists are available online for free for these programs to use without the artists’ consent. It all began with the release of DALL-E 2, an improved AI art program from OpenAI.The program allowed users to input text descriptions and produce images that users considered amazing, adorable, or incredibly strange.

Why would using this type of software be a problem ?

Well not every image on the internet is public domain, and the images being used for these algorithms are directly reused in its output. This is extremely frustrating to professional artists, as the works of millions of artists are available online for free for these software to use their work without their consent. Another underlying issue is the fact that anyone can simply type in a prompt and make AI-generated work, a huge job security concern for human artists already struggling in a difficult field to make a living in.

Screen Shot 2022-12-05 at 3 @megraeart ARTISTS NEED YOUR HELP!PLEASE SHARE ON YOUR STORIES AND BOOKMARK megraeart

It’s all fun and games until people start selling these AI as works of their own - “artwork” presented as original creations in art contests, museums etc., or have the audacity to bully actual artists for their rightful concerns and frustrations with the emerging tech. Copying by AI was not consented to by the artists, and despite the booming tech industry, there’s a lack of compensation for legitimate artists.

Users can create all kinds of “artwork” with just a few key words, including some that are clearly evocative of the works of countless artists. Users can literally invoke those artists by simply typing “in the style of” or “by” along with a specific name. The current uses for these tools can range from personal amusement to more commercial cases, with millions of users flocking to text-to-image AI systems. They have already been used to create magazine covers, news stories, experimental films, advertising campaigns and more, which is troublesome to human artists, designers, and journalists. There have already been cases of images generated with an AI system winning awards and competitions sparking backlash and an uproar among artists, which we’ll delve into further in a bit.

What exactly is AI ART?

AI art refers to art generated with the assistance of artificial intelligence. AI is a field of computer science that focuses on building machines that mimic human intelligence or even simulate the human brain through a set of algorithms. Programs like Midjourney, Night Cafe, and DALL – E 2 are art generators that create art based on the prompts that have been given, basically you describe something in a sentence - it goes to the bot, the bot sources and analyzes numerous images, and out comes a result, sometimes in seconds. The generators use algorithms that analyze thousands of art pieces from different artists, in order to create unique works through specific rules through which machines analyze thousands of images to comprehend a particular creation process, like a specific style or aesthetic. The algorithms then generate novel forms, shapes, figures, and patterns to produce new works. Besides machines, AI artists also collaborate with creative coders, statisticians, computer scientists, and neuroscientists to build machines that push the boundaries of human creativity.

Example of AI-generated art made with WOMBO Dream
TradingCard-1-576x1024 Prompt Cornfield at sunset wombo.art wombo.art

What is the purpose of using AI in art?

Companies and enthusiasts try to market it as “Expanding human creativity” but in reality AI should not be used in place of Art, but instead used as a tool for reference. Some artists and designers have actually embraced the power of these tools. Some illustrators and visual artists use AI tools to generate ideas, gather inspiration, and experiment. While AI-generated art does inspire creativity, and enthusiasm, as it approaches mass consumption, it becomes an enormous question of ethics and becomes a huge disruption in creative industries. 

“It can be a beneficial utility for creative industries. It’s already used in various industries, such as advertising, marketing, gaming, architecture, fashion, graphic design, and product design. This Twitter thread provides a variety of use cases, from commerce to the medical imaging domain.” - TECH DIRT

Where is the data coming from?

Many artists and industry professionals have been taking to Twitter and other social platforms to express their outrage about the controversial tech, and hopefully expose some of the harsh truths to a broader audience.

The generators for these AI software analyze thousands of images, paintings and other sources of art in order to create these “unique works.” In an interview with a multimedia reporter, Jim Ovelmen, an animation professor at Cal State LA, who has used AI art programs like Midjourney expressed his apprehension. 

Another thing that bothered me was that in some of the AI-generated stuff, you could actually see the signature,said Ovelmen. “The fact you can see someone’s signature in the echochamber of all the thousands of images it’s creating means it was somehow sampled by some individual artist’s signature.” The issue with how the algorithms take from thousands of artists’ works and how crediting comes into play is another part of the AI art debate.

A student breaks it down it layman’s terms: “It’s kind of like a booklet of all these artists that showcase their arts, and then you start cutting those pieces out and just putting it on one collage,” said Felix Mach, a third-year animation major. “The machine has this huge collection of pieces from other artists, and it’s hard for you to credit those artists because it’s just from a library.”

Why is using AI Art controversial? 

There needs to be a much stricter regulation of AI art programs, especially when it comes to what sources they are allowed to pull sample data from, and how the works the programs generate may be used in a commercial capacity. In theory the apps aren’t harmful per se, and  as mentioned above there can be beneficial applications for it in creative fields. However, taking artwork from creators to use as data without permission and allowing anyone who can simply type a sentence to steal aspects of artists’ work for their own gain is ethically and irresponsible. Artificial intelligence should help artists, not steal their work and hurt their career prospects. Many artists have spent countless hours in education, practice and mastering skills in order to create artwork based off their dedication and knowledge. Putting words into a machine to generate pictures off of someone's work is insulting on so many levels.

 As it stands, many artists have already expressed their genuine concern over the possibility that AI can replace human artists. While some may see this fear as an “exaggeration,” it could all be alleviated by practical regulations and responsible practices if these AI developers cared enough. It’s extremely worrisome that anyone - having no skill, talent, experience, or drive whatsoever can simply enter a prompt and profit from it. Programs such as Starryai -(Generate art _ simply by describing what you want to see and our Artificial Intelligence transforms your words into art) - advertise that users will have full ownership of any images generated using their program and that they can use those images for commercial purposes. Essentially this means that anyone who enters a sufficiently descriptive prompt can profit off an image that was generated using the work of artists who were not asked for permission or paid for their work. While humans are directly using the software, they are not doing the actual creation, drawing, or painting of the work themselves. This brings up the questions of authorship and plagiarism when AI work is being published and submitted and not properly disclosed as such.

Detrimental to human artist

 According to an article from CNN, a number of artists found out their work was used to train AI and they are furious. Erin Hanson, a McMinnville, Oregon,based artist is one of many professional artists whose work was included in the data that was essentially used to train Stable Diffusion, the London-based Stability AI. She’s one of the several artists that were interviewed by CNN Business, and were unhappy to learn that pictures of their work were used without being informed for consent, or paying for their use. Another artist Danger, whose artwork includes posters for bands like Phish and Primus, is one of several professionals that told CNN Business “they worry that AI image generators could threaten their livelihoods.” Danger goes on to say - “Why are we going to pay an artist $1,000 when we can have 1,000 [images] to pick from for free?” he asked. “People are cheap.” A name known well to many in the comic convention community, Tara McPherson, the Pittsburgh-based artist whose work is featured on toys, clothing and in films, "is also concerned about the possibility of losing out on some work to AI. She feels disappointed and “taken advantage of” for having her work included in the dataset behind Stable Diffusion without her knowledge, she said.

AI art is being banned in some art communities

AI Aart is being banned from some art communities as website are being flooded with generative pics according to an article from Stealth Optical. Communities are “performing sweeping bans” as “Small art communities such as Newgrounds, Fur Affinity and more are fighting against the generative content being uploaded online.” The article goes on to express how established artist who are already finding it difficult to make ends meet in the modern gig community gig have to deal with the growing AI issue. “AI-powered artwork is pushing some artists away in favour of automation. Even if it isn’t always perfect.”

An AI won an art contest infuriating artists 

One of the biggest ethical controversies over AI is the submission of AI generated work being submitted for contests. An AI won an art contest, and artists are furious according to CNN Business. In August, a game designer sparked controversy after his artificial-intelligence- generated art piece - Theatre D’opera Spatial image won the top spot at a competition in the United States with critics calling the win a threat to human artists everywhere. Allen, a game designer who lives in Pueblo West, Colorado, won first place in the emerging artist division’s “digital arts/digitally-manipulated photography” category at the Colorado State Fair Fine Arts Competition, beating more than a dozen other entries. The win sparking controversy about whether art can be generated by a computer, and what, exactly, it means to be an artist.

“This sucks for the exact same reason we don’t let robots participate in the Olympics,” one Twitter user wrote.

“This is the literal definition of ‘pressed a few buttons to make a digital art piece’,” another Tweeted. “AI artwork is the ‘banana taped to the wall’ of the digital world now.”

While AI-generated art inspires creativity, and enthusiasm, it can have detrimental affects on the human art community. As it reaches the masses it can suffer many consequences, some of which can be flat out terrifying. Changes and regulations need to be assessed now.