It's not an actual AI yet, but it's started a war all the same.
For those of us old enough to remember when Terminator first came out, the face of AI was remarkably human. Beefy, tall, the size of few miniature horses, and less vocabulary than modern AI, but human nonetheless.
That movie worked well because it stood on the shoulders of older books and media that worked through similar concepts and explored similar themes, specifically, the dangers of developing advanced technology without thought of the harm it could do.
Famously, Issac Asimov proposed the Three Laws of Robotics, which state:
1. A robot can’t hurt a human or through inaction let human be hurt.
2. A robot must obey except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence so long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
I don’t cite these laws to say they’re perfect to put into perspective much of what followed that tried to a) prove it right, b) prove it wrong. Terminator tries to prove it right. I, Robot, tries to prove it right, and wrong.
Why does that matter with AI art? Well, because we have to start at the start.
First, let me acknowledging my bias. I am an author, a recovered lawyer, and artist supporter. But I believe words have meaning and defining things to suit us doesn’t work.
The word art has NOT historically been seen as something restricted to things produced solely by the hands of humans, much less professional, talented adults. Here’s Merriam Webster from 2015.
Paintings by a gorilla go for as high as $29,000 and been given much fanfare. No one says it isn’t art. They may say it’s stupid, but so do many who see a red dot on a white canvas which have sold for far more and the NFT trend. The value of the art is the isn't a part of the defining one.
So let’s work see if we can get where advocates want us to, despite AI yes being artificial, but intelligent, I’d argue, not the way they claim.
CAN AI PRODUCE ART UNDER MERRIAM WEBSTER’S DEFINITION OF THE WORD?
1. Skill acquired by experience, study, or observation. The programs in questions scrape the internet for data points to “learn”, which under the definition might fulfill this section, but when put to the test, falters. How? If AIs were truly acquiring skill, we could, for example, after it learned, take out all the images scraped of water, and it could come up with its own image of water that didn’t belong to anyone but itself. It cannot. They NEED others’ art or they can’t function. They have no experience, no study, no observation of their own. So no, it loses under that.
2. As to a branch of learning, the argument that computer science or computer skills are now the same as the humanities or the fine arts is a hard sell. The natural inconsistency of humans means the arts will always result in new things. We do not find this in computer science, or even AI usage. We find proof because users are attempting to protect prompts, knowing that they result in similar, if not exact, replicas of their work. CS has a place. It’s a good place. It has its own legal protections, called patents, separate from artists’ protections, called copyright. Different skill sets, different protections.
3. An occupation. The is not applicable.
4. The conscious use of skill and creative imagination, especially in the production of aesthetic objects, also: works so produced. Now this, this is where it comes together for advocates. Program users are doing this. That’s art on its face.
5. A skillful plan. Not what we’re talking about.
6. Decorative or illustrative elements in printed matter. And once again, we have art, even if produced by AI.
So, under the definition, before the turmoil now, the pieces being produced right now are art.
So if AI art is ART, does that make those that produce it artists?
ARE THOSE WHO PRODUCE AI ART, ARTISTS UNDER MERRIAM WEBSTER’S DEFINITION OF THE WORD?
1. a: a person who creates art (such as painting, sculpture, music, or writing) using conscious skill and creative imagination.
b: a person skilled in any of the arts. We’re ignoring this, computer skills are not art skills.
Number 1 gives us pause, because clearly the program user is creating art (see above), but are they using conscious skill and creative imagination?
Well, conscious skill, is a term of art, and doesn’t mean you’re awake and know how to turn on a computer. It refers to the Four Stages of Competence, and easily understood to mean you can use the skill, but only with effort, or if an expert, less effort. But it does in fact mean that you know how to produce the end product. Not the computer, not the program, or the programmer who developed the AI. You. Could you produce it? And when you add in creative imagination, you add more distance between that title and the user. Why? Because they are not, in fact, creating something new from their imagination, which under the definition of creative is REQUIRED to be an artist, something that by definition of AI’s inability to actually learn, it is incapable of doing.
2. A skilled performer. Not what we’re talking about here.
3. A person who is very good at something. No matter how beautiful the art, it would prove the person was great at using the program’s prompting system. They have used the mashed together pieces of art created by a computer to create another mashed together piece of art. It may end up being beautiful, but that prompting skill is being good at image guided boolean searches. Nothing more and falls under computer skills, not art skills.
So, by definition, we have AI art is art, but the creators art artists, but where does that get us? If we’re concerned about developing technology, and we now know that AI art under pre-dispute definition, what does that mean in society at legally? Which is where it gets dicey.
CURRENT STATUS OF LAW QUICK
AI developers can get patents on code.
No one can get a copyright on the art because copyright requires a HUMAN to have created it. Even the graphic novel that received one had it revoked. There is ongoing litigation, but that is the rule at this time.
AI scraping of online code is now in litigation in the US.
Europe is looking to protect scraped IP rights owners.
Japan is protecting AI developers’ right to scrape, setting up a showdown with Europe and potentially the US, and providing fig leaf protection to IP right owners in later commercial use.
China is looking into having AI art have a label.
As per usual, this failure of the US and other interested parties to get their legal houses in order has thrown the legal and industry houses into disorder.
OK SMART ASS, WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE US?
For years, we poured dollars of investment, enforcement, and man-power into up-lifting the tech sector from our education through re-education programs to our infrastructure and daily lives, while stripping the arts from schools, the work denigrated, and ignoring artists rights, and work retail jobs while building their clients and reputations.
Even when money is put to helping IP rights, they put almost every dime to help Disney and its equally large counterparts in the parallel industries.
Cost and restrictive rules lock the individual artists out of the courts. They can’t fight counterfeiters and pirates abroad, they can’t poison pill the pirates here, and platforms punish them for privilege to earn them money every month.
So, when AI developers and users decide it’s fine to invade an industry already assaulted on all fronts, it’s ripe for rage. There’s little nuance. There’s no negotiation. And no one wants to hear it.
Even when some people have an argument.
Even when some who want to use it are just as beaten down as the visual artists screaming from the roofs right now.
Because here’s a fact.
They already know these people aren’t artists. And making yourself a card doesn’t change it. Just like not all people who publish books are writers. Don’t let the name on the title fool you. There are a huge number of people buying their way into the industry, but they Are. Not. Writers.
Hiring a ghost writer and slapping your name on it doesn’t make you one. It can make you a best seller, but it doesn’t make you a writer. I can art direct a photoshoot for my cover and buy all the rights, but I’m not a photographer. I may come up with the idea, find the models, style the shoot, do everything to prep it, but since I don’t set the aperture, lighting, or handle the camera... not a photographer, and neither are you if you didn’t handle that camera yourself.
HOW DID YOUR RANT HELP?
It may not have helped you, but it helped me. Sorry for the break in the middle of the scene. But that’s the point. The lines in the sand were drawn long before now and AI programs are a nuclear bomb being released by technology advocates with no care for the damage they do.
Asimov’s three laws applied to robots, but how do we apply them in the pre-actual AI world? We don’t know because no one’s asking until the deed is done and advocates have steamrolling the people they intend to hurt with flippant pats on the head with demands to be thanked.
Well first, willingly define things. Not doing so makes you look like an idiot. AI art is art. Anyone looking at the results of AI is going to say so. Then, admit you’re not an artist. Definitions matter, and this is where you start. Facts matter. People may dispute my choice of definition sources, but make people bring a better one produced before the dispute.
Because once you know who is what and what we’re talking about, we know who we need to protect and what your technology is taking. That’s what we’re working with.
If you are producing art, taken from artists, to give to NON-ARTISTS, then we are talking about theft of IP rights.
Second, organize. Not just in the individual artistic silos, but as a whole. This might shock the VA, writers, musicians, and other types, but the same issues and laws are going to affect us all. AI is going to is a bomb that no matter which trench we’re all tucked into, will leave us all in wreckage.
While recording artists have some benefits with the recording studios, and some VA artists are feeling burned right now by authors, don’t think we aren’t in the same boat. The same programs will commit theft on a grand scale from everyone.
I know well that sounds impossible. Several of those groups can’t organize within themselves, let alone with others, but I believe that is the only thing that will stop this. Fully organized artists lobbying corporations, state houses, Congress, and regulatory boards, as well as international systems. Hundreds of thousands of people acting in concert would move the needle. But that’s it.
You know what won’t?
Attacking fellow artists who are struggling just as much, sometimes more. Someone working 60+ a week, paying 7+ other artists a month, who makes a few pieces of AI art isn’t the enemy no matter how much the VA artists want to tar and feather him.
I’m not speaking of the blatant copyright infringer,
I’m talking about the person barely making it, paying artists most of the time, but gets a few pieces from AI. They aren’t the enemy.
Who is? I point a finger at software companies who driving up the cost of doing business for artists and don’t then share those profits with said artists, making them drive up the cost to other artists down the chain. And every platform who refuses to pay a fair share of profits made off of content creators, making it harder to pay artists down the up.
They need to pay for development and upkeep, but they rarely see artists as a primary stakeholder, focusing on shareholders and owners almost to the exclusion of the people that power their business. That’s true from Amazon and YouTube, and contrary to their reputations, Adobe and Shutterstock.
HOW THE WAR ENDS...AND WHAT ABOUT ASIMOV
Wars end in numerous ways. Biblically, by attrition, truce, rarely amicably, but most by exhausting the other side’s resources. If that is the way this goes, the only people who will be able to support new art are large corporations and the individual hobbyist for themselves. And that’s where Asimov’s rules should be applied to advanced tech, at least on a sliding scale. Creations of these kinds are running forty years ahead of laws and still poorly regulated because of the industries’ refusal to cooperate.
The overwhelming amounts of money poured directly and indirectly into tech for fifty years by governments and companies will guarantee that no one will be able to stop AI if artists as a whole do not help each other within a year or two.
That’s how long the entirety of the arts world have. Dire? Hyperbolic? I don’t think so with how fast AI learns and how fast companies and people are adopting it. And once they adopt it, they will NEVER stop.
For artists at the beginning of the chain, it will be catastrophic, and for the artists in the middle and at the end, they will have no choice but use it to survive. And yelling at the realities of that won’t stop the devastation coming.
Organizing will. Focusing on the true powers that be will. Helping the people who want to help you will.
For now authors, if you can’t afford a custom cover, buy a pre-made from a real designer. It will help for now. Demand the art not be AI art. Support the artists being targeted now, because we are next. Help them as much as you can. It shouldn’t have to be said that piracy and theft is bad, not just when done to you, but anyone.
Designers, don’t use those AI pieces. Even with those fake licenses, you don’t have commercial rights, because there are no copyrights to give. You will screw up an author’s world when their entire cover is taken by a troll to put on another book/product and label it as their own. Their titles can’t be protected either, so someone can take that book cover, keep everything but the name, make a fake pen name that looks the similar and copy that book. And THEY WILL because scammers are just that. Scammers.
Artists, don’t fake the art. Don’t lie. It harms you and your clients. Designers and customers count on you to tell them where the piece comes from. If someone pays an artist, they pay for a person’s creativity, not a programmer’s software output, and they’re paying for the legal protection of such. And if someone can’t afford you, guide them to another artist who is amazing, but who isn’t charging as much right now.
End of the chain creators aren’t guaranteed to get paid. This is a hope and a prayer for them…remember that.
But, that’s it for now. Comments, poisoned darts, should be aimed below.