The indie artists suing Stable Diffusion may not realise it, but they’re doing the Mouse’s dirty work.
Disney and the rest of Hollywood have been eerily quiet about the launch of Stable Diffusion, despite the fact that this open-source A.I. software will happily spit out high-quality images of iconic, copyrighted characters from comics, cartoons, and movies in response to text prompts.
But this doesn’t mean they’re sitting idly by and doing nothing. There’s a legal battle taking shape, though it doesn’t yet involve any of the larger players—at least not that we can see publicly. The first big lawsuit against Stability AI, the company that makes Stable Diffusion, is fronted by friendly “indie artist” faces who are put forth on a very slick website as fighters for a fair shake for independent creatives. Their suit takes direct legal aim at the core of how generative A.I. works.
Now Getty Images has joined the fray too, with a lawsuit against Stability AI that it told The Verge is mainly about seeking legal clarification and not so much about damages.
The mouse that ate the public domain is watching carefully, because what’s at stake for it is existential.
To lay it out in terms that sound sci-fi but definitely are not: A future version of Stable Diffusion will not be a replacement for some artists whose work you like; it can replace entire studios and intellectual-property shops like Disney, Pixar, and Marvel. You’ll have a movie studio’s worth of creative and technical talent on your laptop, and it can keep you endlessly entertained with your favorite characters and worlds without ever sending a dollar to the owner of those characters’ copyrights.
Here’s the even bigger kicker: Under current law, none of this would be obviously illegal.
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