Give an artificial intelligence (AI) program like DALL-E a short text command and poof, within seconds a series of highly effective images will appear on your screen. A group of international artists is suing the creators of this software. How do Dutch illustrators and cartoonists view this new development?
‘A draftsman who cares’, I type into the artificial intelligence program DALL-E. And voilà: after less than ten seconds, a little man with paper and pen appears on my screen. He looks at me with his hands in his orange hair and fear in his eyes. A quite appropriate picture for my story. And who should I enter at C for copyright? None at all.
The text continues below the image
‘Jatwerk’ Paulien Cornelisse calls such images in one of his columns in de Volkskrant. ‘Sad for the toiling illustrators’. The image I use above comes from an infinite pool of datasets containing millions of images. Tell the smart program what you want to see – and make it as crazy and detailed as you want – and presto: a number of images with the given text task. The work of artists and illustrators is also used for inspiration. While they don’t get paid for it.
‘There goes our livelihood’
It’s not cool, thought the freelance illustrator TRIK, when he came across an Instagram post by the writer and musician Aafke Romeijn. TRIK follows her on Instagram and is a fan of her work. In December 2022, he saw that she had posted three images of herself generated by the artificial intelligence program Lensa. ‘If you want a portrait next time, you can also ask me’, said TRIK to Romeijn.
The portraits of Aafke Romeijn, made with AI, the text continues below the post
‘I am convinced that Aafke will not use such a program for his work, but the general ‘there goes our livelihood’ thought crossed my mind for a while.’ And then TRIK, who also teaches at the art academy, talks not only about his own bread, but also about his students’ and indeed his entire subject group’s.
Fear of new technology often plays a role among creators, explains the illustrator. As with the birth of Photoshop. ‘But photographers quickly discovered that it is actually a useful tool. A new hammer for your toolbox. With artificial intelligence, you are dealing with a hammer that will work on its own,’ he says.
A group of artists go to court
According to TRIK, the ‘bastardness’ lies in the fact that these programmers use the works of artists, illustrators and other creatives. ‘If they had to pay for that data, you would feel a bit compensated as an image creator. But they don’t.’
A group of international artists is therefore starting a lawsuit against the creators of these special artificial intelligence programs. They believe that AI software, such as the Stability AI program, should not simply rely on existing works, writes de Volkskrant.
There must be money left: American lawyers commissioned by the artists are demanding compensation of no less than five billion dollars from Stability AI alone. From a legal point of view, this is groping in the dark: It is one of the first lawsuits against artificial intelligence around copyright.
The comic world
TRIK notes that in addition to artists and illustrators, another group is also struggling with AI: the ‘superhero comics corner’ of the comics world. He saw more and more artists change their profile picture to an AI logo with a line through it.’ NO TO GENERATED IMAGES, reads the text below illustrator Alexander Nanitchkov’s logo. The online protest started after artists saw more and more AI work appearing on the portfolio page of Epic Games (an American developer of computer games such as the popular game Fortnite, ed.).
Many artists feel that comparing AI-generated images to their work is demeaning. And it undermines the time and talent that goes into the creator’s work. More and more comic book publishers are also taking on AI art. As Jon Moisan, acquisitions editor for BOOM! Studios, which calls artificial intelligence a “fraud” in a tweet. “If you submit AI art to me in an attempt to get work and I find out, I will do everything I can to make sure you are banned from the comics business. There is no room for fraud in this industry.”
I will say it now; if you submit AI art to me in an attempt to get work and I find out, I will do everything in my power to ensure you are blackballed from the comics industry. There is no room for fraud in this industry
— “Not Spooky” Jon Moisan (@JonMoisan) 15 December 2022
TRICK: ‘I assume that a somewhat respectful client, newspaper or magazine in the Netherlands will do the same and not want to use the free AI images. But if your business budget is low, it can be tempting.’
Then the world of artists. What do they think of this development? Tjeerd Royaards, political cartoonist for, among others, Trouw and editor-in-chief of Cartoon Movement, is less worried about what he calls ‘inevitable development’. ‘It is incredibly difficult to predict the effect of a new technology, but I am convinced that there will always be room and added value for human-made drawings.’
As a political cartoonist, he hopes to have a niche that AI does not pose a threat to. It doesn’t happen either: the programs are not (yet) able to generate current, political cartoons often. But what if this happens? “Then I still think that political drawings made by people will not disappear. Perhaps the market for stock illustrations is going flat, but this may also mean that the demand for (and thus the price of) authentic work increases at the same time.’