Artists were dealt a significant blow in their ongoing legal war with generative AI developers. On Monday, a U.S. District Judge ruled that a lawsuit filed against AI-image generator Midjourney and digital art community platform DeviantArt would not proceed, ruling that the plaintiffs have not provided enough evidence to support their claim of copyright infringement. Judge William Orrick called the claims of copyright infringement “defective in numerous respects” and granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss. However, a separate claim of infringement against AI developer Stability AI, the creator of Stable Diffusion, by illustrator Sarah Andersen, was allowed to move forward.
Generative AI refers to artificial intelligence programs that user prompts to generate text, images, videos, and audio. Generative AI models are trained on a large amount of data from various sources, including the internet. On the matter of DeviantArt, Judge Orrick noted that the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate how the platform could be faulted for gathering internet content. That was done by LAION, a non-profit based in Germany.
The lawsuit, filed by plaintiffs Kelly McKernan, Karla Ortiz, and Andersen, alleged that Stability AI violated not only direct copyright infringement laws but also the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the artists’ right of publicity, and the platforms’ terms of service. Orick conceded they may have a case on that front.
The plaintiffs also claimed that art generated in the style of a given artist—potentially billions of variations—also represents copyright infringement. Attorneys for Stability instead argued that Anderson should be required to identify which of her copyrighted or “registered” works were copied into the training data for Stable Diffusion. Doing so would be difficult, the judge noted.
In July, Orrick said the plaintiffs must “better differentiate” their allegations and the AI image generation companies. At the time, Orrick said, given the scale of the training data, it was “implausible” that specific works were implicated. With today’s ruling, he required the plaintiffs to “amend to clarify their theory” related to whether the AI models contain “compressed copies” of their works.
Orrick also denied Midjourney’s request to eliminate the class action aspect of the case, because “precluding the possibility of resolution of issues or claims through a class action is premature.” The next hearing in the lawsuit against Stability AI, Midjourney, and DeviantArt is scheduled for November 7.
This ruling is a significant setback for artists in their ongoing legal battle against generative AI developers. Although the claims of copyright infringement were dismissed, the lawsuit against Stability AI, the creator of Stable Diffusion, is still allowed to move forward. The next hearing is scheduled for November 7.
You can read more about this topic here: Decrypt: Artists’ Copyright Claims Against AI Companies Dismissed—Mostly