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Adapting Creativity in the AI Era: Navigating Copyright Law and the Rise of Generative AI

Understanding AI's Impact on Copyright Disputes and the Future of Artistic Innovation


I have written about this topic in various places, but never intended on fully fleshing out my thought in writing until an assignment on the topic popped up. That in conjunction with the recent dismissals of a lawsuit against Stability AI, Midjourney and DeviantArt where the judge determined the artist couldn't provide sufficient evidence of their claims even with access to Stability AI source code got me typing.

Let me start off by saying that I'm no expert in law or machine learning, but I do my best to research these topic well enough to explain it in laymen's terms (*especially for my LTEC assignments.)

Just imagine Pythagoras filing a lawsuit against Texas Instruments for making a calculator trained on mathematic principles that can solves his theorem for you.
Sunday comic style illustration creation created with Midjourney and Adobe 's generative AI technology
All image components brought to you by Midjourney, Adobe and my domain knowledge, then edited and complied in Photoshop. By Tiffeny Wilbourn.

When the topic of generative AI pops up in my social feeds, much of the time, 'ethical issues' are cited. It exposes the severe need for education on these technologies and the history of technological adoption within any given industry, for that matter.

How does generative AI work? - The Basics

AI doesn't interoperate feelings or intentions and can't "infer" tone. It doesn't "see" art the way human eyes do and can't "copy" per se of its own accord. At the end of the day, everything on our screen is still 1s and 0s. We bring it to life. Even though you might ask an AI to generate something in the voice of Steve Jobs, it will not solely use the "Steve Jobs" tone to generate a response. The response is influenced by a wide range of patterns and structures it learned from massive amounts of training data. It will then look for those 1 and 0 Jobs patterns within its training data to produce what it thinks the user wants to know, similar to how predictive text works, but on a larger scale.

Ex, a model is trained on sarcastic comments— it might learn that certain combinations of words (which are numbers to programs) that it has been told are sarcasm. It doesn't infer or "understand" what sarcasm is. If you then ask it to generate a sarcastic comment, it can only produce something that matches the patterns (sets of numbers) it learned that are often associated with sarcasm.

So if I apply this to the production of images— Well, I would say, "There is nothing new under the sun."

But what about my art?

Does that mean today's artists should give up because technology can now "do the job for us?" Absolutely not! Once Skynet takes over, art will be the least of our worries. J/K

We've seen time and time again that dedicated artists can't help but create. When photography became the primary tool for portraits as opposed to paint, when digital photography made film obsolete, or when software took over photo editing, photographers continued to evolve and advance in their creativity. The same can be said for artists that transitioned from studio arts to graphic art. The introduction of computers didn't make them less of an artist but instead gave them an additional outlet to create. When low-code websites hit the market, and non-coders started manipulating template designs to produce trends, front-end developers found custom solutions for more complex applications of those designs that drag and drop couldn't accomplish. This goes for just about any evolving industry since the beginning of time.

Graphic art collage of Byzantine Jesus and the application of modern day bronzer technique.
Byzantine & Bronzer Canva Composite

As humans, we are inspired by the world around us and iterate based on those inspirations. I believe each of us only recreates what we are inspired by, and the issues lie within the idea of originality and how others value the work that we trade for dollars. Things most people consider "original" can be traced back to something ad infinitum. I mean, I can see a direct correlation between Byzantine art and the way today's women apply highlighter and contour to their faces. I'm sure we've all seen our fair share of folks walking around looking like a Byzantine Icon.

If there are products out there that hurt my bottom line and my work is that easily replicated (which most things in this world are, to begin with), I need to ask myself if I've become stagnated in my creations or have enough people developed similar skillsets then I need to seed my domain knowledge with new material.

Artists will continue to innovate!

This is simply another point in history where a growth mindset will be the defining characteristic following the introduction of a new technology. Adopting AI should propel our minds to make connections we couldn't see before and be a driving factor in a world where the bounds of creativity are endless.

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