Should artists whose work was used to coach generative AI like ChatGPT be compensated for his or her contributions? Peter Deng, vice chairman of consumer products at OpenAI – the maker of ChatGPT – was reluctant to supply a solution when asked on the important stage at SXSW this afternoon.

“That’s a fantastic query,” he said when asked by SignalFire enterprise partner (and former TechCrunch author) Josh Constine, who interviewed Deng in an in depth Fireside interview. Some in the gang of onlookers shouted “yes” in response, which Deng took note of. “I hear from the audience that they do. I hear from the audience they do.”

That Deng dodged the query just isn’t surprising. OpenAI finds itself in a tough legal position in terms of the way in which it uses data to coach generative AI systems just like the art creation tool DALL-E 3, which is integrated with ChatGPT.

Systems like DALL-E 3 are trained on an unlimited variety of examples—artworks, illustrations, photos, etc.—typically sourced from public web sites and datasets on the Internet. OpenAI and other generative AI providers argue that “fair use,” the legal doctrine that permits using copyrighted works to create a secondary creation so long as it’s transformative, violates their practice of extracting public data and using it for training purposes without one Receiving compensation and even recognition shields artists.

In fact, OpenAI recently argued that without copyrighted material it could be unimaginable to create useful AI models. “Training AI models using publicly available Internet materials is fair use, as confirmed by long-standing and widely accepted precedents,” the corporate wrote in a January statement blog entry. “We view this principle as fair to creators, vital for innovators, and important to U.S. competitiveness.”

Unsurprisingly, the creators disagree.

A category motion lawsuit by artists including Grzegorz Rutkowski, known for his work on Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering, against OpenAI and several other of its competitors, Midjourney and DeviantArt, is heading to court. The defendants argue that tools like DALL-E 3 and Midjourney reproduce artists’ styles without their express permission, allowing users to create latest works much like the artists’ originals for which the artists receive no payment.

OpenAI has licensing agreements with some content providers akin to Shutterstock, allowing webmasters to dam its web crawler from crawling their site for training data. Additionally, OpenAI, like a few of its competitors, allows artists to remove their work from the datasets the corporate uses to coach its image-generating models. (Some artists have described However, the opt-out tool, which requires submitting a single copy of every image to be removed together with an outline, is cumbersome.)

Deng said he believes artists would have more freedom to develop and use generative AI tools like DALL-E, but wasn’t sure exactly what that may appear like.

“Artists should be a part of the ecosystem as much as possible,” Deng said. “I feel if we are able to discover a strategy to speed up the flywheel of art creation, we’ll really help the industry just a little bit more… In some ways, every artist has been inspired by artists who got here before them, and I ponder how much that’s thereby accelerated.”

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