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Artists sign open letter saying generative AI is good, actually
September 8, 2023

Artists sign open letter saying generative AI is good, actually

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Artists are among the many groups who will feel the effects of AI over the next few years, but it’s not doom and gloom for everyone. A group of artists have organized an open letter to Congress, arguing that generative AI isn’t so bad and, more importantly, the creative community should be included in talks about how the technology should be regulated and defined.

The full letter and list of signatories is here; the gist is that AI, machine learning and algorithmic or automated tools have been used in music, art and other media for decades and this is just another tool.

As such, those who use the tools, whether that’s as software engineers or painters, should be consulted in the process of guiding their development and regulation.

Here’s an edited snippet of the letter:

There’s certainly reason and wisdom in these words, and the government ignores the creator community at its peril if it intends to form a diverse and representative group to advise its deliberations around AI.

But the letter, despite being published under the auspices of Creative Commons, conspicuously mischaracterizes the most serious criticism of the AI systems artists object to: that they were created through wholesale IP theft that even now leverages artists’ work for commercial gain, without their consent and certainly without paying them. It’s a strange oversight for an organization dedicated to navigating the complex world of digital copyright and licensing.

While there may be some who subjectively deride AI-assisted art as mere prompt engineering or what have you, many who object do so because the companies that created these tools did so in ways that exploited artists. Whether art resulting from such systems is derivative or original, it’s reasonable to consider it as the fruit of a poisoned tree.

Just as authors decry some large language models as being obviously trained on their own work, among the complaints artists can and probably will bring to any hearing or forum in Congress must be that companies unethically and perhaps illegally ingest copyrighted work against the wishes and welfare of their creators.

We’re only at the very beginning of the AI-influenced era of art and industry, so there is plenty of room for both disagreement and collaboration. While this open letter is only one perspective, it is a valuable one — and likely also one that will receive significant pushback from other artists who feel their own work or positions are being misrepresented. And by this time next year the world and its attendant conflicts will have moved on yet again as today’s models and methods are abandoned. We’ll be talking about this for a long, long time.


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