Over the last few months there have been a flurry of lawsuits against AI companies, with most of them being focused on copyright claims. The site ChatGPTIsEatingTheWorld has been tracking all the lawsuits, which currently lists 11 lawsuits, seven of which are copyright claims. Five of those are from the same lawyers: Joseph Saveri and Matthew Butterick, who seem to want to corner the market on “suing AI companies for copyright.”
We already covered just how bad their two separate (though they’re currently trying to combine them, and no one can explain to me why it made sense to file them separately in the first place) lawsuits on behalf of authors are, as they show little understanding of how copyright actually works. But their original lawsuit against Stability AI, MidJourney, and DeviantArt was even worse, as we noted back in April. As we said at the time, they don’t allege a single act of infringement, but rather make vague statements about how what these AI tools are doing must be infringing.
(Also, the lawyers seemed to totally misunderstand what DeviantArt was doing, in that it was using open source tools to better enable DeviantArt artists to prevent their works from being used as inspiration in AI systems, and claimed that was infringing… but that’s a different issue).
It appears that the judge overseeing that lawsuit has noticed just how weak the claims are. Though we don’t have a written opinion yet, Reuters reports that Judge William Orrick was pretty clear at least week’s hearing that the case, as currently argued, has no chance.
U.S. District Judge William Orrick said during a hearing in San Francisco on Wednesday that he was inclined to dismiss most of a lawsuit brought by a group of artists against generative artificial intelligence companies, though he would allow them to file a new complaint.
Orrick said that the artists should more clearly state and differentiate their claims against Stability AI, Midjourney and DeviantArt, and that they should be able to “provide more facts” about the alleged copyright infringement because they have access to Stability’s relevant source code.
“Otherwise, it seems implausible that their works are involved,” Orrick said, noting that the systems have been trained on “five billion compressed images.”
Again, the theory of the lawsuit seemed to be that AI companies cut up little pieces of the content they train on and create a “collage” in response. Except, that’s not at all how it works. And since the complaint can’t show any specific work that has been infringed on by the output, the case seems like a loser. And it’s good the judge sees that.
He also recognizes that merely being inspired by someone else’s art doesn’t make the new art infringing:
“I don’t think the claim regarding output images is plausible at the moment, because there’s no substantial similarity” between images created by the artists and the AI systems, Orrick said.
It seems likely that Saveri and crew will file an amended complaint to try to more competently make this argument, but since the underlying technology doesn’t fundamentally do what the lawsuit pretends it does, it’s difficult to see how it can succeed.
But, of course, this is copyright, and copyright caselaw doesn’t always follow logic or what the law itself says. So it’s no surprise that Saveri and Butterick are trying multiple lawsuits with these theories. They might just find a judge confused enough to buy it.
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