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Shutterstock takes a clear stance on AI-generated images, but doesn’t want to scare away artists. Will this balancing act succeed?

The stock image platform Shutterstock and OpenAI are entering into a partnership: OpenAI’s image AI DALL-E 2 will be integrated into the Shutterstock platform in the coming months.

Users of the Shutterstock website will have direct access to the program and should be able to “improve their creative workflow,” according to Shutterstock. Details are not yet known, but Shutterstock is using OpenAI’s recently announced DALL-E 2 API. The offer is valid worldwide.

AI stock: Shutterstock bucks the trend

Shutterstock’s commitment to AI images follows Getty Image’s departure from them. The latter company justified the decision with unresolved copyright issues on images used for AI training.

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Previously, online image and art platforms Fur Affinity, Newgrounds, and Inkblot had banned AI images from their platforms, siding with many artists who have protested AI image generators in recent months over potential copyright infringement and other concerns, such as the devaluation of human creativity.

Shutterstock wants to compensate artists

Shutterstock is aware that its collaboration with OpenAI will be viewed critically in the art and design world, and along with the integration of DALL-E 2, is announcing a fund for artists whose Shutterstock images were used for DALL-E 2’s AI training.

Shutterstock’s position is that ownership of AI-generated content cannot be assigned to an individual. Instead, compensation must be paid to the artist collective whose content is involved in the creation of each new piece of AI content.

“The mediums to express creativity are constantly evolving and expanding. We recognize that it is our great responsibility to embrace this evolution and to ensure that the generative technology that drives innovation is grounded in ethical practices,” said Paul Hennessy, Chief Executive Officer at Shutterstock.

Under the compensation model, artists whose content is used to train AI models receive a share of revenue from the sale of datasets and licensing of AI content generated at Shutterstock.

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The amount of the share is based on the amount of images and metadata used for the training datasets provided by Shutterstock. Shutterstock has been selling images and metadata to OpenAI since 2021.

“The data we licensed from Shutterstock was critical to the training of DALL-E,” said Sam Altman, OpenAI’s CEO.

Other AI generators are excluded

AI images not created with DALL-E 2 can no longer be sold on Shutterstock. This is a good thing for the image platform in two ways: it puts focus on its DALL-E 2 integration. At the same time, it can avoid copyright criticism related to training datasets from other image AIs like Stable Diffusion.

However, there is also much more training data in DALL-E 2 than Shutterstock’s. OpenAI could perhaps provide Shutterstock with its own model to address this criticism as well.

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In the PR content accompanying the collaboration, Shutterstock also addresses how AI image generators can support artists in their creative work. OpenAI CEO Altman likewise sees AI as an “integral part of artists’ creative workflows.” However, Altman also said a few weeks ago that “it’s important to be honest” when it comes to the potential impact of DALL-E 2 on the creative jobs market.

Another aspect that platforms like Shutterstock need to consider: If they do not offer AI images on their platform, other platform providers will enter the scene that focus on this area and may grow quickly. One example of this is the website Stock AI.

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Summary
  • Shutterstock, one of the most popular stock photo databases, is partnering with OpenAI to create and sell AI-generated images.
  • OpenAI's image AI will be implemented directly on Shutterstock in the coming months.
  • Shutterstock intends to compensate artists whose images and data were used for AI training on a pro-rata basis through a fund.
Online journalist Matthias is the co-founder and publisher of THE DECODER. He believes that artificial intelligence will fundamentally change the relationship between humans and computers.
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