- Information about the Getty Images lawsuit in the USA added.
Updated February 7, 2023:
Getty Images has filed a lawsuit against Stability AI in the United States District Court in Delaware. The startup allegedly copied twelve million images without permission or compensation, and used them to train its AI model to build a competing business. The UK lawsuit (see below) has not yet been served, according to a Getty Images spokesperson.
Attorney Andres Guadamuz, who specializes in AI copyrights, calls Getty Images' complaint "very strong." He says the complaint is more technically precise than the U.S. class-action lawsuit filed by three artists.
The main allegation is that Stability AI used Laion's links to create copies of Getty images for a system that "at times it produces images that are highly similar and derivative" of the Getty library.
Getty Images would likely claim infringement, while Stability AI would claim fair use. The Delaware court has few fair use cases, he said, so "nobody knows". Copyright attorney Aaron Moss (via The Verge) suggested that the hearings could take several years.
By then, both Getty Images and Stability AI will likely have developed far more advanced AI systems and settled the copyright issues out of court.
Stability AI has already announced its intention to use datasets containing licensed material in the future. This reinforces Guadamuz's suspicion that the lawsuit could be used by Getty Images to pressure Stability AI into paying royalties for the images processed in AI training.
Original article from January 17, 2023:
Getty Images wants to sue Stability AI, the company behind Stable Diffusion.
Stability AI uses the intellectual property of others without permission or consideration for its own financial gain, according to Craig Peters, CEO of Getty Images.
"We think similarly these generative models need to address the intellectual property rights of others, that’s the crux of it," said Peters to The Verge. "And we’re taking this action to get clarity."
Two lawsuits against Stability AI
U.S. artists Sarah Andersen, Kelly McKernan and Karla Ortiz, who are filing a class action lawsuit against Stability AI, Midjourney and DeviantArt, have a strong ally in Getty Images, one of the world's most important online image platforms. It already spoke out against AI-generated images last September, banning them from its library. At the time, Getty Images cited unresolved copyright issues as the reason.
AI image generators are a threat to Getty Images' business model of collecting and licensing images online. Getty Images consequently wants to sell licenses for training images to companies like Stability AI.
"Stability AI did not seek any such license from Getty Images and instead, we believe, chose to ignore viable licensing options and long-standing legal protections in pursuit of their stand-alone commercial interests," according to a company statement.
It's possible that the Getty Images lawsuit is just a negotiating tactic, writes AI copyright specialist Andres Guadamuz on Twitter. Nevertheless, he says the threat is significantly greater than the US class action mentioned above.
It is unclear why Getty Images is suing Stability AI instead of LAION, the organization that created the Stable Diffusion training dataset. The dataset does not contain the images themselves, but links to the image sources.
I think that this is a negotiating tactic trying to get StabilityAI to pay for a licence. They're clear that Getty has seen the writing on the wall, and they mention that AI has a future in the creative industries. To me they are signalling that they want a piece of the action.
— Andres Guadamuz (@technollama) January 17, 2023
Getty Images may try to gain a competitive advantage by training AI image generators exclusively with its own images in the future, when only licensed images may be used for AI training. The platform is unlikely to be under the illusion that it can stop advances in AI image generators and their impact on the market. It could, however, maneuver itself into a more commercially attractive position.
The legal proceedings with Getty Images would take place in London. Stability AI has not yet commented on the allegations.