Getty Images AI - NEW CASE LAW

February 23, 2024

In January 2023, Getty Images began legal proceedings in the High Court against Stability AI, an open-source generative artificial intelligence (AI) company. Getty is alleging infringement of its IP rights in relation to Stability’s deep learning AI model that automatically generates images, known as ‘Stable Diffusion’. 

It is alleged that Stable Diffusion has been trained on millions of images from Getty Images website, for which Getty holds the copyright. Therefore, Getty’s argument is that Stability AI has copied and processed copyright images and that amounts to copyright infringement.  

The case is important as it presents an opportunity for the High Court to demonstrate how existing IP law will be applied and enforced against individuals and legal entities which sit behind AI systems. Despite the fact Stability have tried to have aspects of Getty’s claim struck out, the case has been permitted to proceed to trial.  

Why is the case important in the world of IP?

There is a generally held view in the IP world that the outcome of Getty’s claim against Stability, and other similar cases, could have wide reaching implications. As everyone knows, the legal boundaries associated with generative AI are continually being established and tested at the moment, in this developing area, particularly as Courts consider new issues and new precedents are determined.

The Getty case raises lots of interesting questions in respect of UK copyright law, for example what amounts to secondary infringement and also issues in respect of jurisdiction. This case is important as it thought it will give judicial and wider industry insight on many issues in respect of AI and IP.  

What should I do if I am using generative AI in my business?

You should make sure you know the terms of what you are using and how this may impact on your own content. You do not want to be using generative AI tools only to find that it has a detrimental impact on your IP ownership position. The level of risk each business is willing to take in this respect will very much depend on the output of the business. We can help to assess your risk position if this is something you’d like to do consider.  

What are other companies doing to address these issues?

At the end of last year, Valve who are the developers behind the popular gaming platform, “Steam”, implemented new rules to cover the use of AI content in games. It is now the case that developers looking to publish games on the platform are required to disclose when a game contains pre-generated AI content and promise that it is not ‘illegal or infringing’. In addition, players will be made aware if a game uses AI generated content and are encouraged to report any illegal material to Valve. It is clear therefore that Valve, like many other companies, consider it necessary to address this issue, and to bring it to the attention of users of the platform.  

What do Plume think?

It will be interesting to see the interpretation of the AI and IP issues in the Getty Images case. So far in the UK we have seen various consultations and white papers in this respect, which clearly indicate that there are many issues to consider in respect of existing copyright law and the position which developers of AI systems and those in IP rich creative industries take.

This case will no doubt contribute to a thorough examination of these issues and we look forward to reading the Court’s take on it when it is available.  

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