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Can I use AI generated images for children’s picture books?

Saving money, time and getting fast content to self-publish might seem very tempting. Many youtubers are making videos like “Earn thousands of dollars in minutes by selling AI ’art‘ “, but keep in mind that the information shared in these kinds of videos might not consider the legal complications that could arise due to creating commercial products using AI generated images. Some people just care about getting a ton of views on these kinds of videos (and these video titles and thumbnails do seem very promising), and they won’t help you when you get in any legal trouble!

Artists and other creative producers have become deeply fearful about the increased use of Artificial intelligence in content production. These are not unwarranted concerns as the use of AI is rapidly increasing in contemporary society. We see Artificial intelligence being used in the technology sector, the food and beverage industry, and now also in the creative sphere. Concerns about “robots” taking our jobs have been around since time immemorial and they could at times be viewed as technophobic. It could be stated that humans could evolve alongside their robotic counterparts and develop a collaborative relationship in the commercial sphere. Although this could be the case for manual labour related roles or even admin, the creative sphere is certainly a little more of a tricky area. Art and literature are often seen as the by products of human emotion and creative expression. The fact Artificial Intelligence is now being used in such a sacred uniquely human stratosphere raises many worrying questions. Questions regarding the ethics of the methodology used by AI, wherein finished products are the amalgamation of hundreds of human art works. Questions around ownership and copyright in an already over saturated market. Questions around the job security of thousands of artists who sacrificed so much to achieve success and contribute to the creative sphere. Questions about future profits and proceeds. Should an ill-educated randomer truly profit from the original works of a genuine artist without their consent? We have outlined some of these issues below, but it would appear the use of AI will certainly shift the creative landscape and will need to be heavily regulated to prevent irreversible damage.

How Artificial intelligence “creates” Art

For an artificial generator to produce creative work it needs to be fed a substantial amount of data. This data is based on the published works and individualistic styles of millions of artists. The publisher enters a “prompt” into the image generator, (Van Gogh Cats for example) and the generator will produce a piece based on instructions given, using the copyrighted works of online artists. Anyone can use image generators to create work. The use of Ai is becoming problematic in the self-publishing industry as it is highly unregulated. Image generators such as such as Midjourney, stable diffusion, art breeder and Dall-E can be used with relative ease for a very cheap price.

One could argue that the work produced is a separate form of art. Indeed, there is some skill required to tweak prompts to create genuinely memorable work. Careful curation can be highly important when current versions of DALL- E, Stable diffusion, and Mid journey limit prompts to about the length of a long tweet. The artist must be specific, merciless, and patient whilst tinkering with various mutations.

An uncertain future for artists?

AI can quicky manipulate huge amounts of published images and create new work in a very short turn around time. Generators like stable diffusion and DALL E are incredibly cheap to use. This process poses a threat to the livelihoods of artists, illustrators, and content creators. Similarly, there are many fears that originality, creativity, tone, and individual expression may be lost in a streamlined robotic process. Art has been for centuries a unique manifestation and expression of the human experience.

Artificial intelligence and consent

Naturally enough many artists want assurances that their own influential work will be legally protected and not stolen or manipulated without their consent. Individual stylistic preferences which have been formed after years of training and work are also being imitated without permission. How can we protect artists and the works they create? AI generators could be viewed as impersonator that replicates and distorts previously published work using machine learning. Greg Rutkowski concept artist and illustrator expressed fears that the creative world will be “flooded with AI art”, which may be a substandard imitation of previously beautiful works obtained without consent.

This concern is particularly prevalent in the self-publishing industry where inexperienced content creators are predominantly profiting from the works of talented artists or authors.

Recently self-published author, Ammar Reshi, a product design manager by occupation, used an AI powered chatbot called ChatGPT to make a children’s book over a single weekend. He published the 12-page picture book titled “Alice and Sparkle” and began selling it on Amazon and profiting from the sales. Rashis tweets about the book went viral and many artists expressed concern about the unregulated nature of AI in the art world.

Children’s book illustrator Adriane Tsai shared “The main problem about AI is that it is trained from artist’s work. It’s our distinct styles that we created that we did not consent to being used”. Fellow UK Children’s author Josie Dom refused to download Reshis book and confirmed she was “concerned that the use of AI in creating stories will create a proliferation of poor-quality stories, both on the writing and the illustration end of the spectrum”.

Reshi himself confirmed “I think that there’s real concern and I do hear out those artists. It’s important that the tech industry that’s working on these tools involves them in the process of creation”. The use of AI in this manner would need to be highly regulated. Enhanced legislative protections would need to be formulated, and it is well known that the wheels of justice grind slow.

Fair use and other legislative protections

The biggest issue regarding the use of Artificial intelligence to produce art is copyright. Could you copyright an artificial generators output? Who would own the finished product? How will creators’ consent to their work being used and what legal restraints should be in place for data management or handling. Currently In the US there is no copyright protection for work generated solely by a machine. However, if a creator can

show there was substantial human input in the AI process they may be able to claim ownership over the finished product. As well as this there is another defence available for the users of AI generators. That is the fair use doctrine. Fair use permits the user of copyright material to use their work without consent / permission. The Courts will ask what the purpose or nature of the use and what impact is does it have on the market. This will often give protection to researchers or start ups who use creative works for educational purposes. Those who profit from the work of artists, such as self-published authors may be penalised. When deciding whether the use of artwork by computer generators is “fair” the courts will usually balance the interests of copyright holders with thepublic interest in the wide distribution of work.

Overall, we can conclude from this that the creative landscape is dramatically shifting due to the use of Artificial intelligence. It would be safer for authors to avoid using AI generated images for commercial purposes to avoid legal trouble.

The whole idea of picture books is to inspire creativity in children and using AI generated stories and images to supplement it, goes against that idea.

There are many editors and illustrators in various budget brackets, so it is better to invest some money using their services to create good books rather than losing a lot of money and your brand reputation in legal hassles.


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