Shutterstock partners with OpenAI to sell artworks created by artificial intelligence, and compensate artists

Zoom / Shutterstock logo above an image created by DALL-E.

shutterstock / open ai

Shutterstock today announced that it has partnered with OpenAI to provide AI image overlay services using the DALL-E API. Once the service is available, the company says it will allow customers to create images based on text prompts. In response to the prevailing ethical criticism of artworks created by AI, Shutterstock also says it will compensate artists “whose work has contributed to the development of AI models”.

DALL-E is a commercial deep learning image synthesis product created by OpenAI that can generate new images in almost any artistic style based on text descriptions (called “claims”) by the person who wants to create the image. If you type “an astronaut riding a horse,” DALL-E will create an image of an astronaut on a horse.

DALL-E and other photomontage models, such as Midjourney and Stable Diffusion, have sparked an emotional response from artists who fear their livelihoods are threatened by new technology. In addition, photomontage models “learned” to create images by analyzing the work of human artists found on the web without the artist’s consent.

The new partnership with OpenAI will bring DALL-E’s AI image generation capability (which is available from OpenAI separately) to Shutterstock.com itself, so that site customers can create new images that may not be in the site’s photo library and artwork.

Shutterstock’s announcement came in the form of a press release, also reported by The Verge. In the statement, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman revealed that the company licensed images from Shutterstock for DALL-E training starting in 2021. “The data we licensed from Shutterstock was critical to DALL-E training,” Altman said. To our knowledge, OpenAI has not previously disclosed whether it licensed any training material or if it came entirely from unauthorized web scraps.

Even as Shutterstock publicly embraces AI creation and editing tools, The Verge reports that the company will not allow contributors to sell AI-generated artwork that isn’t created using its partnership with OpenAI, citing copyright concerns about the source of images used to train non-photo models – DALL-E.

artist compensation

Example of DALL-E
Zoom / DALL-E example of “an astronaut on a horse”.

open ai

In light of the widespread ethical concerns raised by the artists, Shutterstock appears to have crafted its advertising message to deflect criticism from its adoption of artificial intelligence synthesis. For example, when the DALL-E integration on Shutterstock.com launches in the “coming months,” Shutterstock says that contributors will be “compensated for the role their content played in the development of this technology.”

Shutterstock’s statement did not provide further details of how the compensation scheme would work, but James Vincent of The Verge spoke with a Shutterstock spokesperson who described a “revenue share compensation model” where Shutterstock contributors whose content helped train generative models would receive a “share of the total value of Nodes paid by platform partners” in proportion to the amount of their content in “purchased datasets”. Payment will occur every six months. This creates a system in which Shutterstock can license its image catalog and artwork to companies like OpenAI to train their models.

Meanwhile, with Shutterstock moving toward selling AI-generated artwork with open arms, Getty Images is taking a different approach, as The Verge reported in a separate piece. In an interview with the outlet, Getty Images CEO Craig Peters expressed caution about AI-generated artworks being adopted too quickly due to unresolved copyright issues. “I think we’re watching some organizations and individuals and companies being reckless,” Peters said. “I think it’s dangerous. I don’t think it’s responsible. I think it could be illegal.”

Getty Images banned the sale of AI-generated artwork through its service in September, but The Verge reported that Getty is partnering with an Israeli company called Bria to provide AI-powered editing tools that can alter the content of existing photos, such as changing a person’s expression or skin tone. Expect more moves from artists and competitors alike as the community reacts to the news in this rapidly evolving field.

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