How Quickly Will Rights Enforcement Operations Apply Copyright Violation Claims to AI/ML Generated Images?

September 20, 2022

My view is that the outfits which use a business model to obtain payment for images without going through an authorized middleman or middlethem (?) are beavering away at this moment. How do “enforcement operations” work? Easy. There is old and new code available to generate a “digital fingerprint” for an image. You can see how these systems work. Just snag an image from Bing, Google, or some other picture finding service. Save it to you local drive. Then navigate — let’s use the Google, shall we? — to Google Images and search by image. Plug in the location on your storage device and the system will return matches. TinEye works too. What you see are matches generated when the “fingerprint” of the image you upload matches a fingerprint in the system’s “memory.” When an entity like a SPAC thinking Getty Images, PicRights, or similar outfit (these folks have conferences to discuss methods!) spots a “match,” the legal eagles take flight. One example of such a legal entity making sure the ultimate owner of the image and the middlethem gets paid, is — I think — something called “Higbee.” I remember the “bee” because the named reminded me of Eleanor Rigby. (The mind is mysterious, right?) The offender such as a church, a wounded veteran group, or a clueless blogger about cookies is notified of an “infringement.” The idea is that the ultimate owner gets money because why not? The middlethem gets money too. I think the legal eagle involved gets money because lawyers…

I read “AI Art Is Here and the World Is Already Different. How We Work — Even Think — Changes When We Can Instantly Command Convincing Images into Existence” takes a stab at explaining what the impact of AI/ML generated art will be. The write up nicks the topic, but it does not buy the pen and nib into the heart of the copyright opportunity.

Here’s a passage I noted from the cited article:

In contrast with the glib intra-VC debate about avoiding human enslavement by a future superintelligence, discussions about image-generation technology have been driven by users and artists and focus on labor, intellectual property, AI bias, and the ethics of artistic borrowing and reproduction.

Close but not a light saber cutting to the heart of what’s coming.

There is a long and growing list of things people can command into existence with their phones, through contested processes kept hidden from view, at a bargain price: trivia, meals, cars, labor. The new AI companies ask, Why not art?

Wrong question!

My hunch is that the copyright enforcement outfits will gather images, find a way to assign rights, and then sue the users of these images because the users did not know that the images were part of the enforcers furniture of a lawsuit.

Fair? Soft fraud? Something else?

The cited article does not consider these questions. Perhaps someone with a bit more savvy and a reasonably calibrated moral and ethical compass should?

Stephen E Arnold, September 20, 2022


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