The big AI art debate just got more chaotic

Another day, another AI art controversy. Concerns over ethical issues related to originality and copyright have dogged the technology since day one and show no sign of abating. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, new research just proved that AI art generators reproduce copyrighted images.

Image diffusion models like DALL-E 2, Imagen, and Stable Diffusion have been making headlines in recent months thanks to their startlingly detailed text-to-image generation. But while AI fans argue that everything the tools create is technically new, research has found that not only do they “remember” trademarked and sensitive images, they’re also not particularly private. (Not sure what we’re talking about? Check out the weirdest artworks made with DALL-E 2 if you’re feeling brave.)

A screenshot from the study (Image credit: Eric Wallace on Twitter)

A study (opens in new tab) by various tech experts, led by Google Brain researcher Nicholas Carlini, discovered that Google’s Imagen tool and Stable Diffusion are both capable of accurately reproducing trademarked images from a mere text input. In a Twitter thread (below), researcher Eric Wallace explains that “many of these images are copyrighted or licensed and some are photographs of individuals.”

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In fact, Wallace’s examples show that the tools spit out near-exact replicas of existing images, albeit with some digital noise and distortion. While the team only found a memorization rate of 0.03%, as researcher Wallace Gizmodo said (opens in new tab)“Maybe next year, whatever new model comes out that’s a lot bigger and a lot more powerful, then those types of memory risks would potentially be a lot bigger than they are now.”

AI art

A screenshot from the study (Image credit: Eric Wallace on Twitter)

This is by no means the first AI art controversy we’ve seen in the last few months. From AI art scooping first prize in an art competition to Getty banning AI-generated images from its library, to copyright concerns and people using the tools to copy the style of certain artists, technology is causing it online all sorts of glitches. In fact, even Adobe recently sent out a message to creatives concerned about the rise of AI art.

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