The elephant in the room: plagiarism

Gepubliceerd op 25 januari 2023 om 20:00

To start with the elephant in the room, the big problem with AI-generated art is the potential for plagiarism. Let me start with an obvious example: Vincent van Gogh. His unique style is recognizable out of thousands. His self portrait is world famous. I am quite certain that any self-respecting AI algorithm that wants to generate 'art in general' is also trained with Vincent van Gogh's paintings.

The following image is generated by the Stable Diffusion v1.5 algorithm (on Nightcafe Creator). It contains four responses to the prompt: "Eternal life, oil painting by Vincent Van Gogh 8k resolution holographic astral cosmic illustration mixed media by Pablo Amaringo". As you can see, the prompt even references two artists, and the generated work has unmistakable features of the works of Vincent van Gogh.

Is this also plagiarism?

Let's grab the dictionary, starting with Wikipedia:

Plagiarism is the fraudulent representation of another person's language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions as one's own original work... From the Oxford English Dictionary: The action or practice of taking someone else's work, idea, etc., and passing it off as one's own; literary theft.

Am I committing plagiarism myself by copying a piece from Wikipedia? No, because I include the source reference.

The question with the images generated in Van Gogh's style is now: is copying his style plagiarism? The most common answer to this is no-unless... Styles are allowed to be copied. Ideas about shape and image may also be copied. Anyone can make a portrait of Van Gogh, even in his own style, but still there is a limit: the work may not resemble one of the (more than thirty) originals so much that it can be taken for genuine. So here's where the line gets a little blurry. What looks like 'a genuine' to a layman is an obvious imitation to the expert. The work should certainly not be offered as a 'genuine Van Gogh'.

However, plagiarism is different from copyright infringement. Sometimes plagiarism is allowed, namely if an author has been dead for more than seventy years. That is also the case with Vincent. Everyone is allowed to make a reproduction of his original works! But the reproduction is still not allowed to be offered as a 'real Van Gogh', and saying that it is an 'original work by yourself' will not get you anywhere. If your work is inspired by another work, it is better to tell it. Your potential buyers will also appreciate it.

This blog is about the generated work, the output, of the AI algorithm. Such an algorithm must first be trained with lots of examples, the input. Does this constitute copyright infringement or plagiarism? That will be the subject of a subsequent blog.

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