Getty Images CEO Craig Peters has criticized companies “racing” to commercialize AI art generators, saying firms aren’t thinking through the potential legal and ethical hazards of the technology.
In an interview with The Verge, Peters reiterated Getty Images’ rule against selling AI content (which it banned in September), while announcing a new partnership between the company and Israeli firm Bria to offer AI-powered image editing tools. Getty Images’ stance on AI-generated content marks a clear difference with rival Shutterstock, which announced today it will be integrating AI art generator DALL-E directly into its site’s offerings.
“I don’t think those questions have been answered.”
“We took a step around AI-generated imagery to protect our customers,” Peters told The Verge. “There’s a lot of questions out there right now — about who owns the copyright to that material, about the rights that were leveraged to create that material — and we don’t want to put our customers into that legal risk area [...] There have been assertions that copyright is owned by x, y, z, by certain platforms, but I don’t think those questions have been answered.”
Peters added: “I think we’re watching some organizations and individuals and companies being reckless [...] I think the fact that these questions are not being addressed is the issue here. In some case, they’re just being thrown to the wayside. I think that’s dangerous. I don’t think it’s responsible. I think it could be illegal.”
Many AI art generators are trained on data scraped from the web, including copyrighted imagery like Getty Images’ own stock photography. Although some experts say the creation of these systems is probably covered by the US fair use doctrine, other suggest there could be future legal challenges as the law catches up with this new technology.
Peters says Getty Images isn’t ignoring the creative potential of AI, though, and stresses that the company’s partnership with Bria will allow it to offer customer “ethical” AI tools. In the short term, these will focus on image editing rather than generation. Bria’s own site advertises how the company’s tech can be used to automate simple tasks like object removal or make more intrusive edits, like changing the race, gender, and appearance of models in stock photographs.
“Create visuals that resonate with every audience by adjusting facial expressions to change people’s sentiment and recasting new presenters,” says the copy on Bria’s website. “Instantly tailor your visuals to different target demographics and A/B test variations to see which best deliver your business goals.”
When asked if AI-generated content was a threat to Getty Images’ business, Peters was adamant that it is not. He cited the rise of ubiquitous cameras in smartphones as proof that expertise, rather than volume, is the defining factor for selling content.
“[The smartphone] didn’t didn’t threaten our business because at the core of our business, is providing imagery that actually changes a person’s interest level — that grabs our attention,” said Peters. “There’s a level of expertise that goes into the imagery we create that goes beyond a level of, just, ‘gimme a picture.’”