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  • Writer's pictureJessica Nacovsky

76: AI "art," aka Simplified Theft

Updated: Jun 12, 2023

No ai symbol

Howdy! If you follow me on Twitter, you're probably already aware of where I stand on AI "art." If not, the title surely filled you in. The way these AI programs learned was by being fed art and other images, generally without the artists' or image holders'/subjects' consent. Were some of those images in the public domain? Yeah. Most? No. Some were medical images that patients absolutely did not consent to have tech bro's and grifters profit from.

It's not harmless. Aside from being quite literally theft, it's taking jobs from illustrators. Yesterday, some grifter on Twitter self published an entire children's book with both the writing and the images resulting as the output of prompts. Is the whole book trash? Yes. But these programs are improving. Christopher Paolini's newest book cover is AI "art" an actual human slightly edited. The rumor is that Tor Books is denying being aware that the design was output by an AI "art" program, but the figure in the center didn't have legs in the image they bought. Missing limbs, deformed hands, glasses and attire blurring into the figure, are typical signs that a piece was AI art. They knew. I'm going to compile a list of books where either the author or the publisher used AI in the finished product. I will not buy a product made with AI. I do not support taking jobs from illustrators and digital artists. I also don't support taking jobs from writers, which is the future if we do not act to stifle this technology now.

I understand the temptation of broke independent authors to utilize this affordable technology to illustrate their books, but in doing so, authors would be paying a company to steal from artists, all while denying affordable illustrators a living. AI is coming for writing too. It's better authors behave ethically, and show solidarity for artists now, then wait for AI to come for their jobs. If we all refuse to benefit from this technology, it doesn't grow. Authors, especially independent authors, constantly call out the theft of their books online, and every time they do, creatives come together to report those stolen books being resold on major online retailers. Like yeah, are their loony toons out there arguing writers (and artists) don't deserve to live off their passion? Yes. But those are the same people fighting to steal from both groups with AI. Most creatives have empathy, so writers get that art's hard, and artists get that writing is hard, and both skillsets are valuable.

I've seen statements on twitter where essentially, Illustrators see a published piece of writing that uses AI in the cover or interior illustrations and basically says, you have given permission to steal and resell this book. In other words, if you don't recognize our worth, nor do we recognize yours. And it's difficult to fault them.

You may argue, well regular broke people weren't going to hire artists anyway so what's the harm in them using the AI "art" programs for funsies? I mean morally, you're still paying a company for stealing from artists. You're helping that program to grow and learn every time you use it. You may argue, isn't AI replacing creatives inevitable? Maybe. But you ether choose to support the disenfranchisement of artists around the globe or you help to delay the growth of AI "art" programs while the laws have a chance to catch up. As a baseline, artists' who's work have been used to train the AI, need to receive royalties for their influence. Ideally, everyone who didn't consent should have their images removed altogether.

Then there is the issue of deep fakes. This is not a new problem, but programs like the popular Lensa app have regular people, who I assume are ignorant of the issues with AI "art" (as opposed to being evil and uncaring), have uploaded their selfies to the app, training it to recreate their face in various angles and styles. Lensa uses patient data alongside a great many other images by nonconsenting people, artists and otherwise, and now they've added data regarding a whole slew of new faces into the mix. Faces that can be used to make p0rnographic images and the like.

Basically, feeding the AI hurts everyone. I want to live in a world where people follow their passions, and share them. I want to read stories influenced by life experiences and marvel at images I could never have imagined and wouldn't know where to start to make. I want to be stunned by all that we can create. We, humanity. Is AI inherently evil? Nah. But is there harm in utilizing a tool that both steals from artists and denies them future payment in our capitalist society? Deciding to use AI is taking a stand against artists and creators. Using AI is shortsighted, selfish, and cruel. Pay artists just like you want to be paid for your work. And if I see you using AI, I better also see you fighting for Universal Basic Income as you gleefully steal what little income illustrators make.

Here's a petition demanding better regulation to protect artists against thieving Ai.

Anyway, I drop a new blog post every Monday. Next week's may well be a list of books that used AI in the finished product, books I won't be buying. It sucks that this situation is so dire, but industries are at stake. Take care and I hope the law catches up quickly.

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