AI that creates stylized portraits accused of plagiarism by angry artists

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Are artists doomed to be replaced by artificial intelligence (AI)? Even if the latter are far from being able to do all that the creativity of an artist allows, their recent performances tend to worry the community. This time, it was the release of an AI generating stylized portraits that angered some artists.

In recent times, artificial intelligences that specialize in generating images from user queries have gained popularity. Their use is still subject to much debate. Recently, an art competition had even been won by a work generated by the Midjourney AIsparking much controversy.

This time, it is an AI named Lensa which is at the heart of the debates. To generate an image, it uses between 10 and 20 images provided by the user. Quickly, profile photos generated by Lensa flourished on the net. “ It’s easy to see why apps like Lensa have captured the imagination of millions of users. The portraits Lensa produces come in a variety of flashy styles that are quite compelling to an uncritical eye. At just $7.99 each for a set of 50 images, many have found Lensa to be the perfect way to create a profile picture. (original) for social media at negligible cost », wrote about it The media Futuristic.


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Of course, the question of artists’ livelihood is always a debate when it comes to AI. ” Instead of paying £10 for an unethical AI that steals from artists and doesn’t even look good, you can give me £25 and I’ll do a little sketch for you, and you can have a profile picture without the burden on your conscience or a company that owns images of your face », thus criticizes an artist on Twitter.

But the major problem raised by the protesters goes even further. Indeed, it is quite possible to provide the AI ​​with original works by artists, very human ones. They then see their works “remixed” by the AI ​​without their consent. In fact, what many see (correctly) as theft is even rather inherent in the operation of image-generating AIs.

Plagiarism or inspiration? The eternal debate applied to AI

Indeed, these “learn” from image databases to respond to user requests. However, the neural network that supports Lensa is based on the LAION-5B database, which retrieves its data from multiple platforms such as ArtStation, DeviantArt, Getty Images, Shutterstock… In other words, works by human artists are ingested by AIs, assimilated, and their style is reused to respond to user requests. Since these are not exact reproductions, it is rather difficult to obtain legal recourse on this matter. Some could even argue by saying that this is neither more nor less the same process as when an artist is inspired by the existing: “ In the same way that a human being is able to learn and educate himself on certain basic artistic principles by observing art, exploring online imagery and learning about artists and ultimately trying to create something thing based on these aggregate skills ”, explains a spokesperson for the company.

However, certain artists, like Kim Leutwyler, creator of Sidney, who expressed in the same Guardian article they call it new original work, but some artists see their exact style replicated exactly in brushstrokes, color, composition – techniques that take years and years to hone “. another artist mentioned on Twitter, supporting images, the fact that fragments of signatures are still visible in some works. Moreover, it was even possible until a recent update to request works “in the style” of a particular artist.

It’s frustrating and feels like a violation. We don’t get compensated, we don’t get credit for it “, concludes Kim Leutwyler, whose works are part of the data used by LAION-5B.

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AI that creates stylized portraits accused of plagiarism by angry artists

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