What’s the Ethical Use of AI-Generated Art?
First: The above bit of whimsy, generated by Midjourney from the prompt “A peppermint kaiju in a gingerbread city.”
Second, some thoughts about AI-generated art I’ve had recently, which I posted on my personal Facebook account but am reposting here to open up the discussion a bit. I wrote:
I have fun playing with AI-generated art, and also, as someone who has numerous artist friends, I have qualms and concerns about how their pre-existing art is used for “training” in a way that is both qualitatively and quantitively different from human learning, and how that use impacts artist livelihoods. More specifically with regard to the latter, the question is how does what I do with AI art have an impact on real live artists.
It’s easy to say here “there are no easy answers” but for me there are in fact a couple of easy-ish answers in how I might approach and use AI-generated art in my personal and professional life. They are:
1. I feel it’s all right to use AI-generated art for personal enjoyment and visual inspiration, or to use it in a place where I might use my own art/photos or Creative Commons-licensed art/photos, and where there is no intent to make money from the art, or from what it accompanies (like social media or blog posts).
2. In all other circumstances, and especially when there’s a commercial intent or application, or when I would otherwise hire an artist, I will seek out artists and commission art from them. Likewise, tell art directors/others that my work for them needs to be illustrated/marketed by art from artists, not AI generation (I don’t think I will have to tell them this, not the least because of copyright issues surround AI-generated art, but still).
As a small example: Although I’ve been having a ball generating holiday-related pictures with AI, when it comes to holiday cards, I’ll be commissioning art (or using my own photos) because that’s a time when I would hire an artist or use my own photos. As a larger example, it’s possible in the nearish future I’ll need to collaborate with artists for projects, and there’s no question, for legal, practical and ethical reasons, that AI-generated art is not the way to go for that.
The short version is: Hire artists, and make an intentional, affirmative choice to hire artists (also, pay artists fairly for their work, not just because I can afford it but because also that should just be the baseline assumption).
I think AI art generation is fun. I also think it requires recognition on my part that these images don’t come from nowhere. Sooner or later, they come from artists. I don’t want my fun to hurt the artists I know, or the ones I don’t.
(Update, 12/10/22: Further thoughts on the subject.)