SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — A federal judge tossed most claims filed by a group of artists against the makers of artificial intelligence software that generates images based on text prompts, finding the claims were too conclusory to survive.
The artists sued Stability AI, Midjourney and DeviantArt over the use of Stable Diffusion, a text-to-image AI tool created by Stability AI.
According to the January complaint, the companies were using the plaintiffs' images to train Stable Diffusion without paying the artists or getting consent to use their work as training images, and the resulting images continue to compete against the human artists' work in the marketplace.
“Until now, when a purchaser seeks a new image ‘in the style’ of a given artist, they must pay to commission or license an original image from that artist,” the complaint reads. “Now, those purchasers can use the artist’s works contained in Stable Diffusion along with the artist’s name to generate new works in the artist’s style without compensating the artist at all.”
The artists asked for a permanent injunction to stop the AI generator from using their work without permission.
In response, the companies said their use of the images was protected by fair use law and filed motions to dismiss and a motion to strike.
On Monday, Senior U.S. District Judge William Orrick ruled the claims were “defective in numerous respects.” He allowed only a single direct infringement claim to proceed against Stability AI, which the plaintiffs say "downloaded or otherwise acquired" billions of copyrighted images without permission.
The artists, Orrick found, "have adequately alleged direct infringement against Stability AI given their allegations regarding Stability’s involvement in the scraping, copying, and use of training images to train Stable Diffusion.”
Otherwise, the artists' claims failed for a variety of reasons, Orrick said.
For the other counts to survive the plaintiffs had to prove that the images Stable Diffusion produced were “substantially similar” to their own work — but the plaintiffs had already repeatedly admitted that “none of the Stable Diffusion output images provided in response to a particular text prompt is likely to be a close match for any specific image in the training data.”
In addition, two of the plaintiff artists, Kayla McKernan and Karla Ortiz, didn't copyright any of their work.
“In opposition, plaintiffs do not address, much less contest, McKernan or Ortiz’s asserted inability to pursue Copyright Act claims. At oral argument, plaintiffs’ counsel clarified that they are not asserting copyright claims on behalf of these two plaintiffs. As such, McKernan and Ortiz’s copyright act claims are dismissed with prejudice,” Orrick wrote.
A third plaintiff, Sara Anderson, must limit her copyright claims to the 16 works she registered with the U.S. copyright office.
The claims against DeviantArt and Midjourney failed because they had nothing to do with Stability's process of scraping the images and training the AI software.
The plaintiffs have been granted leave to amend their complaint.
Orrick deferred on DeviantArt’s motion to strike, writing, “At this juncture, precluding the possibility of resolution of issues or claims through a class action is premature.”
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