Midjourney AI Faces Backlash Over Artist Database Usage

As the dawn of 2024 unfolded, Midjourney found itself amidst controversy regarding the utilization of a vast artist database to train its generative AI. The social media exposure brought attention to allegations of extensive data usage.

Allegations and Social Media Exposure:

 Over the New Year’s weekend, artists took to social media platforms, including X and Bluesky, unveiling a Google Sheet that allegedly exposed Midjourney’s incorporation of artists’ work for AI training purposes. Screenshots shared by Riot Games’ senior storyboard artist, Jon Lam, shed light on the internal discussions among Midjourney developers.

Artists in the Dataset: 

The disclosed 24-page list (Exhibit J) encompasses a diverse range of artists, from established names to a six-year-old contributor involved in a Seattle Children’s Hospital fundraiser in 2021. Notable figures such as Cy Twombly, Frida Kahlo, and Banksy are part of Midjourney’s controversial dataset.

Legal Implications and Database Accessibility: 

Phil Foglio urged artists to scrutinize the list for their inclusion and seek legal representation if necessary. Despite restrictions on the Google file, a version has surfaced on the Internet Archive. This development is a crucial aspect of an ongoing class-action complaint against Stability AI, Midjourney, and DeviantArt.

Class-Action Lawsuit and Copyright Controversy: 

The class-action copyright lawsuit, initiated nearly a year ago, faced setbacks when certain claims were dismissed by a judge on October 30. A contentious decision by the US Copyright Review Board in September, deeming an image generated by Midjourney’s software non-copyrightable, added fuel to concerns about the impact on artists’ careers.

Response and Digital Tool: 

Addressing concerns about unauthorized scraping for AI training, researchers from the University of Chicago developed a digital tool empowering artists to disrupt text-to-image outputs. This initiative seeks to bring attention to the broader ethical considerations surrounding AI usage in the art industry.

Conclusion:

The unfolding controversy marks a critical juncture for Midjourney, prompting reflections on the ethical dimensions of AI data usage and its potential ramifications for artists and the broader art community.

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