Who Is The Artist Of AI-Generated Art?

Want more Junkee in your life? Sign up to our newsletter, and follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook so you always know where to find us.

Have you seen the wacky wonderful world of AI-generated artwork and the hilarious prompts used to make masterpieces like a Pikachu that looks like a pug and Nosferatu in RuPaul’s Drag Race?

Artificial intelligence programs do this by essentially mining internet data to generate images based on those prompts words and the associated imagery and visual style. But would you call this “art”?

AI Isn’t The First Technology To Shake Things Up In Art

Earlier this year, this AI-generated artwork won first prize at the Colorado State Fair in the category of emerging digital artists. The artist Jason Allen used the AI program Midjourney and various written prompts to create the art that won him not only an award, but the attention and criticism of artists around the world.

A common theme to the criticism was that, while AI is a great tool, you can’t call yourself an artist if you use it.

But this isn’t the first time that the definition of an artist has had to shift with technology. Consider the invention of the camera back in the early 1800s. 19th century poet and art critic Charles Baudelaire even called photography “art’s most mortal enemy”.

Digital art software like Procreate and Photoshop garnered similar debates on whether it counts as ‘real art’ and now the technology is very much incorporated into the industry. 

In that same vein, some artists defended Allen’s use of AI in the art competition, pointing out that using the available tech is just the next step to using Photoshop or other editing tools.

But what happens if you’re an artist with examples of your art all over the internet, and artificial intelligence steals your unique, distinctive style?

What Happens If An AI Steals Your Style? 

You might think the most popular art style that AI is used to generate would be the likes of Picasso, Leonardo da Vinci, or Vincent Van Gough. But it’s actually artist Greg Rutkowski, a freelance illustrator based in Poland known for his epic fantasy artwork.

On one generator called Stable Diffusion, Rutkowski’s name has been used to make around 93,000 images in his distinctive fantasy style.  It might be harmless if this was where it ended; but what happens if people try to pass off the art as their own creation using AI technology and even try to sell it?

Rutkowski has said that people have tried to do exactly that, as well as talking about how a market saturated with his art style could make his own original work less valuable. They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but it feels a bit more complicated when it’s an entire technology that’s ripping you off.

The Technology Seems To Be Advancing Faster Than The Law

So what is the solution?

At the moment, the world of AI-generated art kind of feels like the Wild West days of the early internet where there weren’t really any rules. Copyright laws and new technology have always been playing a game of catch up, where the ethics can get really murky. For example, the famous monkey selfie copyright dispute over who owned the photo of a monkey taking a selfie.

As AI software continues to reach new heights and industries, it feels like we need to generate new laws to keep up. Maybe AI can help us with that too.