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Generative AI: A Blessing or a Curse for Artists?

Bernadett Osvay-Szabó

I. Introduction

Due to rapid progress in artificial intelligence over the past few years, there has been an immense growth regarding the popularity of computer-generated artworks on recently emerging AI platforms. It is now possible to generate texts, images and other forms of content indistinguishable from human artworks with the help of AI within seconds. With the inevitable phenomenon of generative AI revolutionizing a wide range of industries and hence, having an impact on all aspects of our lives, we must begin to explore the potential they hold and address the ethical implications raised by the use of such systems. In this essay, I am going to touch on how generative AI operates with regards to artworks, why it can be considered a fascinating tool, and highlight some of the consequences that could stem from its deployment when the ethical concerns are overlooked. By taking into account the fundamental problems that will be discussed, I am going to draw my conclusion that generative AI cannot be considered good for humanity in the long term as the ethical dilemmas can entail serious repercussions regarding the question of copyright claims and originality.

II. Benefits of Generative Artificial Intelligence

Different perspectives (Anon, 2023 & Alshater, 2022) have been held in connection with how beneficial generative AI can be for artists in the long run. First and foremost, it is crucial to address the benefits of implementing such systems. Generative AI certainly has the potential to democratize the creative process of artists. AI tools can be used as a source of inspiration for new ideas and concepts. It can give more opportunities to people who may not find themselves endowed with artistic talent and can be accessed by technically anyone for free. It has the ability to speed up the creation phase and allows the creators to put their human touch on top of it later in the process (Brownlee, 2022). Furthermore, automating repetitive tasks makes it possible for creators to focus on the more challenging or expressive aspects of their creative work.

III. Ethical Concerns & Copyright Claims

However, due to rapid advancement in AI technology, little emphasis has been placed on the ethical impacts of incorporating such technologies in a variety of fields. One of the fundamental problems that arises in correlation with computer-generated artworks is the question of copyright claims. Many critics argue that such platforms have infringed the rights of several artists as their work has been involved in the art production without the original artists' consent (Levin et al., 2020). The issue is primarily rooted in the capacity of AI to create output from utilizing and replicating numerous existing artworks without acknowledging or assigning credit to the creators whose works have contributed to the outcome. It has been stated that when deciding on whether copyright-protected data can be used to train AI systems, there are two key factors that should be taken into consideration: “What's the purpose or nature of the use and what's the impact on the market”. When analysing these questions, it has been highlighted that training systems on billions of images or texts is unlikely to be considered copyright infringement as the input has been heavily transformed in the process and would not jeopardize the original artworks (Vincent, 2022).

However, the problem lies in how content is generated. It is possible for instance, to reproduce artworks based on a given prompt that replicates the patterns of a specific artist's style. This is certainly a drawback from the perspective of the original creators, whose works have been used without their consent and have not been compensated for their involvement. There has also been a requirement in higher education to adjust to the technological innovations. My brother, who is studying game design and art at the University of Southampton, has the possibility, for instance, to utilize generative AI in presentations to illustrate ideas, but otherwise, it is forbidden to use such platforms to preserve academic integrity. This also indicates that these platforms can be considered high-tech forms of plagiarism.

IV. The Nature of Originality in Art

The way AI operates has created fierce debates about originality being under threat (Farrell, 2023). However, it has been highlighted that originality has already ceased to exist in contemporary art as in an attempt to recreate originality, there is a prevalent tendency to repetition, which results in the art becoming unoriginal (Hare, 1964, p. 139-142). Artists must continuously immerse themselves in what they are doing and as they expand their knowledge, their chances of originality decrease. Although it is vital to emphasize that no art can be deemed entirely original nowadays due to easily obtainable knowledge and influence from everywhere, there has to be a major distinction made between being influenced and replicating the work of someone (Rahman, 2022). Therefore, the fact that AI has the ability to generate similar-looking artwork for free can entail serious implications regarding the future of many artists who try to make a living and survive financially from creating art. Many artists have already expressed that publishers tend to use AI instead of hiring cover-artists nowadays (Nast, 2023). It is of growing concern that generative AI has the potential to make many human workers redundant as the tasks or processes previously performed by humans can now be fulfilled through such systems. The negative impact generative AI can have on the lives of people who work in the creative industries can make us question whether we are working towards solving something or we are implementing these systems solely because technology has enabled us to do so.

V. Regulating Generative Artificial Intelligence

In order to ethically regulate the use of such systems, it is crucial to come up with different approaches that alleviate the negative consequences generative AI can entail, while assigning credit to the artists, whose work immensely contributes to the flourishment of the field. It has been noted that one of the most effective solutions to minimize the possibility of copyright infringement is to invent databases where only properly licensed material would be utilized or databases that would specifically be dedicated to AI training (Vincent, 2022). Clear and transparent guidelines should be established that reflect alignment with ethical values and priorities so that accountability can be held.

VI. Conclusion

After thoroughly examining the premise and its potential implications, I have concluded that the ethical issues that arise with the use of such systems should be further investigated as they may have detrimental effects on professions in the creative industry and how we perceive art in the long run. If we inadequately recognise the contribution of artists to the prosperity of the field, even less credit would be assigned to people's work than in the status quo. Automating certain tasks previously performed by humans would result in many professions being replaced in the creative workforce. However, it is vital to recognise that generative AI is at its core a creative tool that cannot replace human creators as it is not endowed with imagination and a human perspective, which are necessary to fulfill several tasks in the creative process, for instance coming up with ideas, an intent or engagement with the audience. The lack of originality can also make us question whether authenticity will remain when there is no intent or meaning behind an artwork.


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