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Letter to the Editor: The Problem with AI in the Arts

As an artist I appreciate the Peninsula Pulse article on artificial intelligence in the creative arts [“Local Artists Weigh In on AI Art,” Dec. 29]. While the responses of the artists and gallery owners was mostly approval or benign acceptance, a major objection was never mentioned. 

The reporter, Sam Watson, shared that it only took 15 seconds for starryAI.com to generate the three images of Cave Point shown in the Pulse article. The resulting images are amazing and aesthetically pleasing. However, to create the three images, starryAI.com must scan tens of thousands of images of the work of artists, living and dead, to extrapolate data representative of Cave Point and Impressionistic paintings in violation of every copyright attached to these original images.

A painter with integrity will not use a photographer’s photo of Cave Point as the basis for a painting without asking permission to use that image as a reference. Such a derivative work is a violation of copyright law. Art students are taken to national galleries to make studies of famous artwork, but these are not then presented as original works for sale.  

The same issue exists for AI-generated poems, novels and other written work. Most of the reference material on the internet and in digitized libraries are protected by copyright. None of the companies creating software for generating AI images or text have paid a single penny to the owners for the use of their original work. These systems cannot produce any of the derivative works without violating someone’s personal intellectual property rights. Copyright law forbids making money off someone else’s protected original work.  

It will be argued that copyright prevents the exact duplication of another’s work, but a novelist can sue a film maker for using their story or characters in a film. The same laws protect all copyrighted text and images.

AI systems are ripping off the artists, photographers and writers who have spent a lifetime mastering their medium. They deserve to be both paid and referenced as co-creators of the AI product. Use AI for fun, but don’t sell the output. It’s a crime.

Michael Harper

Gills Rock, Wisconsin