Ethical Concerns in Using AI-Generated Images
There’s no doubt that an AI art generator can be a medium to explore creativity, develop a unique piece of artwork, and have fun playing with light, colour and shape–so, why might there be an ethical dilemma?
Much of the debate around AI artwork revolves around the newness of these algorithmic tools and what that means for copyright, ownership and the place of professional artists in an increasingly digital world.
However, like every technological innovation, it’s natural and normal for these discussions to arise, particularly where AI art and emotional connections to a lovingly created piece might make ownership a key consideration!
1. AI Artwork Will Replace Conventional Art
The most-cited issue with AI-generated imagery is that, given the speed, minimal cost and accessibility of artwork generation tools, businesses and people will replace professional artists with an algorithm. Some creative community members have found that more simplified digital designs are now more likely to be completed through an AI art generator at a significantly lower expense than an artwork commission.
That said, diffusion AI-generated artwork systems rely on datasets and input to build an image, layer by layer, and can only operate or function with real-world art to draw inspiration from. More complex, bespoke and custom art pieces remain wholly in the domain of highly skilled artists. While AI artwork is useful in some sectors for digital marketing or online publication purposes, it cannot replicate other art forms, such as murals, canvases, architecture, modelling and 3D design.
Those who welcome the evolution of AI art are instead using these tools to their advantage, accessing AI image creators to visualise concepts, experiment with tones and design themes, and expedite their creation process by skipping past the ‘trial and error’ phase.
2. Graphics Created by AI Steal From Artists
Another common challenge is the debate around the origin of the data AI uses to create images. Where a style, technique, or particular format is specific to an artist, it may be possible for users to recreate artwork to mimic that of an artist without crediting their intellectual property or attributing an element of the image to the artist.
The solution to this problem lies in the hands of the user, where legitimate creators recognise and acknowledge where the inspiration used to create their images derives from another source. AI art creation tools are also evolving quickly, with systems in development to support the ongoing creative environment while ensuring that users can only access source material with the permission of the original artist–in much the same way that a royalty-free photography image may be permitted for use provided the creator is referenced.
3. Images Created by AI Cannot Be Copyrighted
The issue of AI and copyright is thorny and with good reason. Depending on where you live and the legislation in your country, AI-generated artwork may fall outside the scope of copyright laws. Creators who have poured hours into crafting an image, editing and adjusting the material could find their graphics impossible to copyright and legally own since an algorithm rather than a person has created the material.
Regulations will presumably adjust as the use of AI-generated artwork grows. Some regulators also define ownership and copyright eligibility on a case-by-case basis, depending on the proportion of human vs AI involvement in a finished image. However, creators should be conscious of the copyright eligibility of their artwork within their jurisdiction, as fair use rules that protect intellectual property could apply.
Some AI artwork generators are also beginning to adopt machine-learning processes that exclude all copyrighted input data, ensuring that the possible ethical issue around using material without the original artist's permission no longer applies.
How to Ensure Your Use of AI Artwork Generation Tools Is Ethical
If you have concerns about the principles and ethos of AI-generated imagery, the best approach is to use these tools to generate ideas, realise your vision, and best describe the graphics, concepts and styles you come up with!
AI artwork generators rely on your prompts and input text to develop a graphic rather than extracting data of their own accord, so the prompts and phraseology you select are the primary influence on the ethics of the images you create–without compromising your morals, or inadvertently copying a style that belongs to somebody else.