AI art generators are fun, but not always ethical. Where’s the line between art theft and homage?

AI art generators use procedural algorithms to produce images which resemble what they’ve seen before, ideally without duplicating it. Most of the popular ones, like DALL-E, Midjourney, and Free AI Art Generator, are ‘trained’ by being shown existing art and using its features to create their own images.

Artists are raising questions about whether or not using their art to ‘train’ an AI artbot is art theft. Either of a specific image, as many less sophisticated AI art generators just duplicate their source materials with minor alterations, or of the artists’ signature styles.

One artbot trend is replicating the distinctive visual style of Wes Anderson, and using it to generate posters and faux screenshots of other movies transformed into that style.

The trend is a good snapshot of exactly what many artists are concerned about. The AI art generators aren’t going to replace Wes Anderson in any way – they can’t make entire movies or even short clips, and the stylized features of his films are more than just the visuals. But there is no limit to how many images can be made ‘in the style of Wes Anderson’ by these bots. They’re creating a deluge of his signature imagery, recycled in endlessly creative but also uniform ways.

They’re wearing out his style. Watering down its impact and aging it into cliché long before its time.

AI art generators can be a powerful tool for creativity, if taken out of the niche of cribbing off existing artistic stock. But there is a legal and technological battle coming, between artists and artbot users, and the more sophisticated and elaborate the artbots become, the better the case the artists will have.

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

Photo: Ascannio / Shutterstock