Getty Images has filed a landmark lawsuit against Stability AI, creators of open-source AI art generator Stable Diffusion, escalating its legal battle against the firm.
Getty accuses Stability AI of a “brazen infringement of Getty Images’ intellectual property on a staggering scale.” It claims that Stability AI copied more than 12 million images from its database without permission or compensation as part of its efforts to build a competing business and that the start-up has infringed on both the company’s copyright and trademark protections.
The lawsuit is the latest volley in the ongoing legal struggle between the creators of AI art generators and rights-holders. AI art tools require illustrations, artwork, and photographs to use as training data, and often scrape it from the web without the creator’s consent. Once the AI has been trained, it can create original and unique images.
Getty announced in December 2022 that it commenced legal proceedings in the High Court of Justice in London against Stability AI. However, that claim has not yet been served, and the company did not say at the time whether it also intended to pursue legal action in the US. Stability AI is also being sued in the US along with another AI art start-up, Midjourney, by a trio of artists who are seeking a class action lawsuit. Legal experts say Getty Images’ case is on stronger footing than the artist-led lawsuit, but caution that in such unknown legal territory it is impossible to predict any outcome. Stability AI wilfully scraped its images without permission.