Stock image giant Shutterstock has announced a big push toward AI-generated imagery today in partnership with OpenAI, building on a strategic partnership the pair announced last year.
Through the partnership between Shutterstock and OpenAI, the latter’s DALL-E 2 image-generating AI system will be integrated with Shutterstock content and made available to Shutterstock users around the world — with the integration slated to launch “in the coming months.” to launch.
AI-generated images refer to machine learning technology trained on visual data so that it can respond to text-based prompts with an image that reflects the description. The quality of the results can vary wildly, but these AI systems have come up in leaps and bounds lately – causing both awe and anger; with many tech users celebrating the “democratization” of art, while visual artists, whose work may have been used as training fodder for these AIs, may feel ripped off.
Unsurprisingly, given these sensitivities, Shutterstock’s push on generative AI is being perceived as an “ethical” plan of action — including launching a fund to “compensate artists for their contributions,” as the press release puts it.
It also says it will focus its R&D efforts on “gathering and publishing insights related to AI-generated content” – with the aim of positioning itself “at the forefront of emerging technology”.
So, uh, RIP stock photographers? Or will the work of stock photographers eventually be largely diverted to capturing training data for sharpening AI models? (“AI doesn’t destroy jobs, it changes them” is the common mantra applied to the rise of automation – although AI often replaces many jobs with fewer, more specialist jobs, so that the ratio of winners to losers is not necessarily equal, nor wealth is usually evenly distributed…)
Shutterstock says contributors will be “compensated” for the role their content has played in the development of this technology — raising many questions such as how will contributors be identified and how much will they be paid; how exactly is their contribution quantified; and how do they know if they are getting fair compensation for their contribution or not? Who is going to check these reward frameworks? And, uh, where was the artist permission to contribute to these AI systems in the first place?
“Shutterstock believes that AI-generated content is the cumulative effort of the contributing artists. In an effort to set a new industry standard and unlock new revenue streams for the company’s artist community, Shutterstock has also created the framework to provide additional compensation to artists whose works contributed to the development of the AI models.” writes Shutterstock — call the framework “ethical and fair”; and say it will also “seek” to compensate contributors (“in the form of royalties”) when their intellectual property is used.
Shutterstock CEO Paul Hennessy added in a statement: “The media to express creativity is constantly evolving and expanding. We recognize that it is our great responsibility to embrace this evolution and ensure that the generative technology that drives innovation is based on ethical practices. We have a long history of integrating AI into every part of our business. This expert level competence makes Shutterstock the ideal partner to help our creative community navigate this new technology. And we are committed to developing best practices and experiences to achieve our goal of empowering the world to create with confidence.”
“The data we licensed from Shutterstock has been critical to DALL-E training,” said OpenAI CEO Sam Altman in another supporting statement, adding: “We are delighted that Shutterstock will be able to offer DALL-E images to its customers as one of the first implementations through our API, and we look forward to future collaborations as artificial intelligence becomes an integral part of artists’ creative workflows.”
Shutterstock has a waiting list to access the upcoming integration of its content with OpenAi’s DALL-E 2 image generator – the list is available at its website.