The great AI art debate just got even messier

AI art
(Image credit: Eric Wallace on Twitter)

Another day, another AI art controversy. Concerns over ethical issues surrounding originality and copyright have followed the tech around since day one, and are showing no signs of abating. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, new research has just proven that, yes, AI art generators reproduce copyrighted imagery.

Image diffusion models such as DALL-E 2, Imagen, and Stable Diffusion have hogged headlines over the last few months thanks to their scarily detailed text-to-image generation. But while AI fans argue that everything the tools create is technically new, research has revealed that not only do they 'memorise' trademarked and sensitive images, but they're also not particularly private. (Not sure what we're talking about? Check out the weirdest art created with DALL-E 2 if you're feeling brave.)

AI art

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

A study by various tech experts headed up by Google Brain researcher Nicholas Carlini has discovered that Google’s Imagen tool and Stable Diffusion are both capable of exactly reproducing trademarked images from a mere text prompt. In a Twitter thread (below), researcher Eric Wallace explains how "many of these images are copyright or licensed, and some are photos of individuals."

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Indeed, it's clear from Wallace's examples that the tools have spat out almost exact replicas of existing images, albeit with the addition of some digital noise and distortion. While the team only found a .03% memorisation rate, as researcher Wallace told Gizmodo, "Maybe in the next year, whatever new model comes out that’s a lot bigger and a lot more powerful, then potentially these kinds of memorisation risks would be a lot higher 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 recent months. From AI art scooping first prize in an art competition to Getty banning AI-generated images from its library over copyright concerns and people using the tools to copy specific artists' styles, the tech is causing all manner of disturbance online. Indeed, even Adobe recently offered a message for creatives worried about the rise of AI art.

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Daniel John
Senior News Editor

Daniel John is Senior News Editor at Creative Bloq. He reports on the worlds of art, design, branding and lifestyle tech (which often translates to tech made by Apple). He joined in 2020 after working in copywriting and digital marketing with brands including ITV, NBC, Channel 4 and more.