UPDATED 15:25 EST / FEBRUARY 06 2023


Getty Images sues Stability AI for copyright and trademark infringement

Getty Images Holdings Inc. is suing Stability AI Ltd., a generative artificial intelligence startup, for allegedly misusing its stock photos.

The Verge reported the case today. Getty Images’ lawsuit, which was submitted to the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, is the second the company has brought against Stability AI. It’s pursuing similar litigation against Stability AI in U.K., where the startup is based. 

Stability AI is the developer of Stable Diffusion, an open-source neural network that can generate images based on text prompts. Stability AI trained the neural network on several billion images including photos that were allegedly sourced from Getty Images without permission. In its lawsuit, Getty Images charges that the startup infringed its copyright.

“Stability AI has copied more than 12 million photographs from Getty Images’ collection, along with the associated captions and metadata, without permission from or compensation to Getty Images, as part of its efforts to build a competing business,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit also charges that Stability AI infringed the Getty Images watermark, which is found on every photo in the latter company’s visual asset library. AI models use details from the images on which they were trained to generate new content. Because it was trained on visual assets from Getty Images, Stable Diffusion often adds the stock photo provider’s watermark to the images it generates, which the lawsuit charges amounts to trademark infringement. 

“The output generated by Stable Diffusion contains a modified version of a Getty Images watermark, creating confusion as to the source of the images and falsely implying an association with Getty Images,” the lawsuit states. “Stability AI’s incorporation of Getty Images’ marks into low quality, unappealing, or offensive images dilutes those marks in further violation of federal and state trademark laws.”

Getty Images is asking the court for damages, as well as an injunction prohibiting Stability AI from using its photos or watermark in an unauthorized manner. Furthermore, the lawsuit is seeking an order that would require Stability AI to delete all versions of its Stable Diffusion neural network that were trained on Getty Images photos without permission.

According to The Verge, the case could take years to reach trial. It’s believed Stability AI will argue its use of stock photos to train neural networks amounts to fair use. 

Stability AI is also facing a copyright lawsuit in California along with DeviantArt Inc. and Midjourney Inc., which provide similar AI-powered image generation services. The lawsuit charges that the companies used up to billions of copyrighted images without permission to train their respective AI models. 

Image: Stability AI

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