Why Lensa's viral AI Magic Avatar tool is infuriating artists

(Image credit: Prisma)

It's been quite the year for AI art, with tools like DALL-E 2 and Stable Diffusion grabbing headlines thanks to their scarily impressive text-to-image capabilities. But while often impressive, AI art is also a little murky when it comes to ethics – and the latest viral app is proving the most controversial yet.

Lensa has been topping app store charts for the last few days, with its 'Magic Avatar' feature creating painterly AI selfies that your social media feed is probably awash with right now. But many are concerned that the tech, based on Stable Diffusion, is co-opting artists' work. (New to AI art? Check out out guide on how to use DALL-E 2.) 

Many are concerned that Stable Diffusion samples existing artists' work to spit out its AI-generated imagery. We've already seen some worrying examples of this, with Korean artist Kim Jung Gi's style blatantly copied by AI. But the real kicker in the case of Lensa, is that the app is allegedly making money from other artists' work. 

Indeed, while its foundation, Stable Diffusion, is free, Lensa costs £36.99 per year to use. Which, seeing as how the app is apparently even spitting out artworks with evidence of the original artist's signature still visible (below), is understandably galling for creatives.

See more
See more
See more

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.

But there's room for fun too, as Marvel's Russo Brothers recently used AI art-generator Midjourney to create The Avengers as directed by Wes Anderson, and its a weird thing.

Read more:

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

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.