Getty Images Has Started Legal Proceedings Against an AI Generative Art Company For Copyright Infringement

Stability AI's digital art tool took the internet by storm using images, including Getty's, and now the two companies could head to court.

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By Gabrielle Bienasz

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Stability AI.

Getty announced in a press release on Tuesday that it began "legal proceedings" against art and artificial intelligence company Stability AI for "infringed intellectual property rights including copyright."

"Stability AI unlawfully copied and processed millions of images protected by copyright and the associated metadata owned or represented by Getty Images absent a license to benefit Stability AI's commercial interests and to the detriment of the content creators," the company wrote.

Stability AI is, among other things, a "generative AI company." offering artificial intelligence that can independently create works of art, from photos and visuals to pieces of writing (think ChatGPT), based on inputted data and in response to user prompts. It also does AI research.

Related: 'It's Super Important We Get This Right': Despite ChatGPT's Popularity, Don't Expect a Google-Built Competitor Right Away

ChatGPT, a sort of generative text responder, generated widespread panic in academic circles this fall for being able to create things like college admissions essays. It was made publicly available by OpenAI in November 2022.

Stability AI was founded in 2020 and raised a $101 million round in October.

Related: Princeton Student Builds ChatGPT Detection App to Fight AI Plagiarism

Like ChatGPT, Stability AI's tool called Stable Diffusion was released to the public in August, and it's also open-source, meaning users can download and alter it, and they can easily remove things like safety and content moderation filters, per The Verge.

With Stable Diffusion, you can generate things like original art-like photos of aliens and humans fighting on Mars or dogs playing poker. However, unlike robot-written essays, in the case of art and images, there are a lot more intellectual property questions on the line.

This can take the form of copyrighted stock images, like the ones Getty Images provides, that the system uses as a basis for the photos it creates. Artists have also seen their work widely ripped on the platform, from living, working artists like Greg Rutkowski, whose work has appeared in prominent video games — and widely on Stability Diffusion, per MIT Technology Review. Monet is also popular on the platform.

Diffusion scraped from a database of images maintained by German nonprofit LAION, which is known to have a large number of copyrighted images. This includes Getty, whose images are not free to use.

The program went viral in September. Now, Getty is fighting back. It said in the release it had commenced legal proceedings" but told CNN it would wait for the company to respond before taking the issue further.

Stability AI's CEO, Emad Mostaque, told The Verge that the tool is intended for "research," and it's up to the people who use it to do so without breaking the law.

In a statement, a Stability AI spokesperson told CNN: "Please know that we take these matters seriously. It is unusual that we have been informed about this intended legal action via the press."

"We are still awaiting the service of any documents. Should we receive them, we will comment appropriately," the company added.

Getty said in its release its legal actions were begun in the High Court of Justice in London.

Getty has provided images "for purposes related to training artificial intelligence systems in a manner that respects personal and intellectual property rights," the company also said in its release.

"Stability AI did not seek any such license from Getty Images," it added.

Gabrielle Bienasz

Entrepreneur Staff

Gabrielle Bienasz is a staff writer at Entrepreneur. She previously worked at Insider and Inc. Magazine. 

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