Artificial Intelligence

US judge finds flaws in artists’ lawsuit against AI companies

  • Artists accused Stability, others of misusing work to train AI
  • Judge said he would likely dismiss most claims but allow a new complaint

(Reuters) – U.S. District Judge William Orrick said during a hearing in San Francisco on Wednesday that he was inclined to dismiss most of a lawsuit brought by a group of artists against generative artificial intelligence companies, though he would allow them to file a new complaint.

Orrick said that the artists should more clearly state and differentiate their claims against Stability AI, Midjourney and DeviantArt, and that they should be able to “provide more facts” about the alleged copyright infringement because they have access to Stability’s relevant source code.

“Otherwise, it seems implausible that their works are involved,” Orrick said, noting that the systems have been trained on “five billion compressed images.”

The judge said that illustrator Sarah Andersen’s claim that Stability directly infringed copyrights she had registered in several of her works was likely to survive the company’s initial bid to dismiss the lawsuit.

The hearing provided the first glimpse of how judges may treat a wave of lawsuits that accuse companies of misusing vast swaths of material to train their AI systems. The proposed class action is one of several recent lawsuits filed against companies including Microsoft, Meta and OpenAI over content used to train systems in the fast-growing generative AI field.

Andersen, Kelly McKernan and Karla Ortiz said in their January complaint that Stability “scraped” billions of images from the internet to teach its Stable Diffusion text-to-image system to create its own images, including some in their styles. They accused the company of infringing their copyrights by using their work without permission.

Midjourney and DeviantArt, whose generative AI systems incorporate Stable Diffusion technology, are also named as defendants. Orrick said it was unclear whether the artists were accusing the two companies of infringing copyrights through their use of Stability’s model or training their own systems in an infringing way.

The judge also said the artists were unlikely to succeed on their claim that images generated by the systems based on text prompts using their names violated their copyrights.

“I don’t think the claim regarding output images is plausible at the moment, because there’s no substantial similarity” between images created by the artists and the AI systems, Orrick said.

The case is Andersen v. Stability AI Ltd, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, No. 3:23-cv-00201.

For the artists: Joseph Saveri of Joseph Saveri Law Firm, Matthew Butterick

For Stability: Paul Schoenhard of Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson

For Midjourney: Angela Dunning of Cooley

For DeviantArt: Andy Gass of Latham & Watkins

Read more:

Lawsuits accuse AI content creators of misusing copyrighted work

AI companies ask U.S. court to dismiss artists’ copyright lawsuit

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Blake Brittain reports on intellectual property law, including patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets, for Reuters Legal. He has previously written for Bloomberg Law and Thomson Reuters Practical Law and practiced as an attorney. Contact: 12029385713