Skip to main content

AI Apps Sued for Copyright Violations

By January 20, 2023No Comments

Image credit: geralt. Pixabay license.

By Frank Gallagher, NANPA Marketing, Communications & Blog Coordinator

Last week, we wrote about how artificial intelligence (AI) apps were grabbing millions of photos, some of which were copyright restricted, and using the images to not only train the AI apps, but also to serve as the basis for “art” created by the apps. Stability AI, maker of Stable Diffusion (one of the more popular AI apps), decided to give artists a way to opt out of having their images used. In the latest twist, Getty Images and several artists are suing the makers of multiple AI apps.

Photographers and other artists could be harmed by AI apps in three ways:

  1. By having their art used without their permission and without any payment,
  2. By having the value of images in general reduced by the widespread availability of AI images (after all, why hire a photographer when you can get an AI engine to create what you want virtually free), and
  3. By having portions of their work appear in the images produced by an AI app.


Getty Images

Getty filed a lawsuit in London, saying that Stability AI had “unlawfully copied and processed millions of images protected by copyright.” Enough Getty images were used that the Getty watermark has been observed on some AI-generated images! That would tend to indicate that the app was trained on so many watermarked images that the algorithms assumed the watermark was a normal part of an artwork.

Getty Images bans AI-generated work from its stock sites but does believe in the creative potential of AI. The company offers a special license for AI training, but Stability AI never asked for it.

In California

Meanwhile, three California artists filed suit in US District Court against several AI companies, including Stability AI and Midjourney. The artists allege that the businesses illegally downloaded and stored copyright-protected works, illegally used those images to create “fakes” or other AI-generated images, and violated the artists’ Right to Publicity by creating images in the style of the artists.

Trial dates have not been set in either case, so there will be much more to come.

Advocacy for photographers’ rights

Meanwhile, NANPA (through its Advocacy Committee) and ASMP fight for the IP rights of nature photographers through and in collaboration with organizations like the Copyright Alliance and Coalition of Visual Artists. Learn more about NANPA’s advocacy work here.

Frank Gallagher is a landscape and nature photographer based in the Washington, DC, area who specializes in providing a wide range of photograph services to nonprofit organizations. He serves as NANPA’s Interim Marketing and Communications Coordinator and manages NANPA’s blog. He can be found online at or on Instagram @frankgallagherfoto.