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### The Impact of Conceptual AI on Artists’ Critique of Andy Warhol’s Stock Profits

Warhol once said “Art is anything you can get away with.” Will Midjourney get away with train…

Is contemporary art truly more popular, or is it increasingly influenced by artificial intelligence (AI)? A legal battle instigated by Midjourney, the research facility behind the Stable Diffusion image-generation engine and Stability AI, against a group of artists has been ongoing for close to a year. This lawsuit revolves around the proliferation of AI-generated artwork online. What insights can we glean from Andy Warhol, a prominent figure in this discourse?

Warhol’s legacy spans various facets, from his mentorship of the iconic Velvet Underground in the 1960s to his association with Jean-Michel Basquiat in the 1980s art scene, not to mention his renowned “Factory” and the ubiquitous imagery of soup cans. Surprisingly prescient, Warhol once prophesied the essence of platforms like Twitter and TikTok with his statement, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” Moreover, his anticipation of legal conflicts in the art realm is evident in his assertion that “Art is anything you can get away with.”

Essentially, Warhol thrived by reproducing existing artworks on a mass scale, frequently entangled in intellectual property disputes both during his lifetime and posthumously. He was not alone in this milieu among his cohort of “pop artists.” Roy Lichtenstein, for instance, faced accusations of appropriating comic book imagery well before Disney’s blockbuster adaptations. Similarly, Shepard Fairey encountered a prolonged legal battle over the rights to his acclaimed 2008 Barack Obama poster, sourced from an image by Mannie Garcia.

The lawsuit against Midjourney has shed light on a database containing a myriad of artists, including the likes of Warhol, Lichtenstein, and Fairey, which allegedly served as source material for the contentious AI technology. With the unveiling of incriminating documents by the plaintiffs, the class-action lawsuit gained momentum, revealing a trove of 20,000 designer names and styles tracked by Midjourney. The ensuing uproar within the creative community underscores the gravity of the situation.

The crux of the matter lies in the accusation that Midjourney’s AI technology is essentially a “copy-and-paste machine,” devoid of genuine learning capabilities, as opposed to the claims made by the aggrieved artists. The demand for financial restitution in the billions underscores the magnitude of the conflict.

While the legal intricacies unfold, experts like Rebecca Tushnet from Harvard Law School stress the importance of considering fair use principles and the transformative nature of artistic creations. The intersection of copyright law and artistic styles, exemplified by figures like Warhol, Lichtenstein, and Fairey, underscores the evolving landscape of intellectual property rights in the digital age.

In essence, the clash between traditional artistic practices and emergent AI technologies poses profound implications for the future of creativity and ownership in the art world. As the debate rages on, the outcome of this legal saga will undoubtedly shape the trajectory of AI-generated art and its relationship with established artistic norms.

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Tags: , Last modified: February 29, 2024
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