- By Clare Hutchinson & Phil John
- BBC News
Updated 1 hour ago
“My work has been used in AI more than Picasso.”
Artificial intelligence (AI) is changing life as we know it, but for digital artist Greg Rutkowski, it’s causing big problems.
He said his name had been used as a prompt in AI tools that generate art more than 400,000 times since September 2022 – but without his consent.
When he checked, his name had been used more often than artists Pablo Picasso and Leonardo da Vinci.
Polish-born artist Greg has seen his work used in games such as Dungeons and Dragons and Magic: The Gathering, but said his new AI fame has raised concerns for his future work.
Sites like Midjourney, Dall.E, NightCafe, and Stable Diffusion are known as generative AI because they can create new, artificially generated artwork in seconds from prompts entered by users.
They learned how to do this by scraping billions of existing images from the internet. The artists complain that this was done without their consent.
Greg said: “The first month that I discovered it, I realized that it would clearly affect my career and that I would not be able to recognize and find my own works on the Internet.
“The results will be associated with my name, but it will not be my image. It will not be created by me. It will therefore add confusion for people who discover my works.”
“Everything we’ve been working on for so many years has been so easily taken from us with AI,” he added.
“It’s really hard to say if this is going to change the whole industry to the point where human artists will be obsolete. I think my job and my future is under a huge question mark.”
“True art has personality”
While the issues are clear, there are ways to use AI tools to benefit artists, according to Cardiff-based animator Harry Hambley, who is the creative force behind internet sensation Ketnipz.
“I think for me the biggest thing that generative art can solve is boredom,” he said.
“But that can be scary and the internet is already a wild place, and you’re mixing AI with that…we don’t know where that’s going to take us.
“Do I think my work will ever be sacrificed to AI or that AI will do it better than me? I don’t know. I hope not.”
Harry said he thinks there’s more to art than just looks.
“At the end of the day, I think there’s a bigger reason why people invest in Ketnipz and I don’t think it’s just about aesthetics.
“I think there’s a personality behind it that I don’t think anyone who impersonates can really tap into.”
“Just Keep Making Art”
Artist James Lewis, from Cardiff, creates videos of his painting technique for more than seven million followers on TikTok and Instagram.
He has yet to find out if his work was used by the tools, but said that because the AI has learned from billions of artworks, it would be difficult to trace which artists’ works were used in each image.
“If there was a way to go back and find out who inspired this style of image that was generated, I think it would be fair for that artist to receive some sort of compensation,” he said.
In the meantime, he thinks artists should continue to be creative.
“I hope AI art will grow and improve, but it can never capture that real human essence, that real creativity that we have as people,” he said.
“You will always need your own creative ideas, your own initiative.”
For artist and human rights researcher Caroline Sinders, it’s up to AI companies to tackle the problem.
She said: “Part of the argument we hear from companies is that ‘we have so much data it would be impossible for us to tell, like looking for a needle in a haystack’.
“I would like to say, well, it’s a ‘you’ problem, not a ‘me’ problem.
“I have copyright in the images and plan to enforce my copyright if my images are used without my consent.”
She said she was also worried about the bias created by these tools and how it meant the AI art didn’t reflect the real world.
“Let’s say we ask an image-generating AI system to generate a doctor assessing a family’s care,” she said.
“Most likely this doctor will be generated as male and likely as white, and the relative will likely be generated as female.
“And this is not an example that I’m making up at random. Testing has been done asking these kinds of general questions without gender appearing in the text prompt and more often than not it reflects these stereotypes.”
This extends to racial prejudice and also ableism, said Irene Fubara-Manuel, senior lecturer at the University of Sussex.
Although they said they were excited about the possibilities of generative art, issues such as racial and gender bias in some of the images created were difficult to overcome.
“I was trying to dye my hair over the summer, and I was just looking for ‘people of color, blonde highlights,'” they said.
“What I got in response was this regal, I would say, fetishized image of black people. You know, chiseled jaw lines, their skin was iridescent.
“It’s like, there are black people who are so beautiful, but the images that you commonly see in a lot of AI are very, very fetishized representations of people.
“You wouldn’t see tall people or people with visible disabilities, for example.”
Artists are now calling on regulators in the UK and around the world to take more action to protect artists and the industry.
Irene said artists are not against AI but “the argument is against exploitation”.
“But I hope it will contribute to human creativity in general, just as the creation of computers has added more to creativity. I am delighted with its contribution,” she said.
Caroline said increased regulation of the UK’s emerging AI industry would not “stifle” innovation.
“It makes things safer and that’s why we have certain laws,” she said.
“That’s why we now have seat belts and airbags for cars and a lot of rules about them. When they were first invented, we didn’t have any of that.
“So it’s not at all out of date to ask for, or create, guardrails and protections.”
Additional reporting by Lola Mayor.