Australian artists accuse popular AI imaging app of stealing content and call for tougher copyright laws

Australian artists say Lensa, the app that uses AI to generate self-portraits, is stealing their content and are calling for tougher copyright laws to keep pace with AI-generated art.

But the parent company behind the app has defended its use of images, saying Lensa learns to create portraits just like a human would, by learning about different styles of art.

Over the past month, the AI ​​image generator has been trending on TikTok and Instagram, with users paying to turn their photos into artistic stylized portraits.

To do this, the app uses Stable Diffusion, a text-to-image conversion app trained to learn patterns through an online database of images, called LAION-5B.

LAION-5B collects billions of images from around the web and artists say it is taking their work without their permission.

Related: What does the Lensa AI app do with my self-portraits and why did it go viral?

Kim Leutwyler, a Sydney-based artist and Archibald finalist, said the app was replicating distinct styles.

“When I started seeing all these portraits generated by the Lensa app posted by some of my friends, even other artists, I was immediately skeptical,” Leutwyler said. “Some of the works are distinctly recognizable from the work of other artists.”

“They call it an original new work, but some artists have their exact style replicated exactly in brushstrokes, color, composition — techniques that take years and years to perfect.”

Leutwyler used the website haveibeentrained.com to search for her work among the 5.8 billion images used to train popular AI art models, and found several of her portraits in the database.

“I have seen almost all the portraits I have painted. Every painting I have shared on the internet,” she said.

“It’s frustrating and feels like a violation. We have not been compensated, we have not been credited.

Leutwyler said copyright laws haven’t kept pace with the speed at which technology is moving when it comes to the art of artificial intelligence.

“In some you can even see the remnants of the artist’s signature in the lower left corner,” Leutwyler said.

In a statement, the company said AI learns to generate art in a “semi-similar” way to humans.

“Neural networks learn to recognize specific patterns and connections between images along with their textual descriptions,” the spokesperson said.

“In this way, the AI ​​develops a mental model, general ‘how-to’ operating principles, which can be widely applied in the content generation process.”

Once the training is done, the AI ​​doesn’t refer to the original images but applies what it learned about styles to the new image, they said.

“Similar to how a human is able to learn and self-train some basic art principles by looking at art, browsing online images and learning about artists, and finally attempting to create something based on these aggregate skills,” he said. said the spokesman.

“Thus, terms like ‘counterfeit’, ‘art theft’ or ‘illegal’ use cannot be applied generically to this process.”

The spokesperson denied that the app replicated artists’ creative signatures, saying the app has learned to “remember the details” to make it look more like a real painting.

“The blurred outlines of the visuals [that one may perceive as signatures] see in the outputs do not use any existing language; they often don’t feature any letters at all,” they said. “They don’t even represent remnants of existing artists’ signatures.”

But some artists are embracing the new technology and using it to create work.

Melbourne tattoo artist Alina Carr uses Dall-e Image Generator, a text-to-image conversion program to create designs that she says are “baked”.

“I’ve been using the image regeneration program to create designs for me,” Carr said.

“Enter a greedy description and out comes the picture. It does a really bad job, a lot of them are really creepy.

Releasing the tattoo sheet on Sunday, the artist said the appeal was that the images were often of poor quality or had a sinister feel.

“I’m basically letting computers do the work for me, trying to find ways to make art on and with these bizarre technological advances,” Carr said.

“I guess other people like me at this stage [will get them as tattoos]people who find it cooked and funny.

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