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### Meet the AI Coaches at Midjourney: A Closer Look

A newly exposed database lists up to 16,000 artists that the company has allegedly used to train it…

Reportedly, around 16,000 artists, including renowned names like Frida Kahlo, Yayoi Kusama, Banksy, and Andy Warhol, have been utilized by a company to train its art-generating technology, as revealed in recently disclosed databases.

The utilization of a substantial database of actual human artistic work for training AI in the realm of conceptual art has been a closely guarded secret. While prominent figures in the industry have accused this technology of engaging in “organized fraud on a large scale,” notable personalities such as Drake and Kurt Cobain have become subjects for testing the future capabilities of machine artists. Certain sectors within the realm of visual arts have expressed resistance to methodologies like Stable Diffusion, alleging that they inappropriately “scrape” content from platforms like DeviantArt. The unveiling of a database over the past weekend shed further light on the magnitude of this issue, detailing the artists reportedly involved in training Midjourney, a leading Artificial art generator.

This database, circulated via social media at the start of the New Year, comprises a Google Sheets spreadsheet listing various aspects like time periods, styles, genres, movements, media, and techniques purportedly employed in instructing the AI system. However, the contentious point arose with the revelation of specific artists—numbering in the hundreds—whose works were fed into the system during its training phase.

The compilation was extracted from a 24-page document that was part of an article linked to the original class-action lawsuit against Midjourney, Stability AI, and DeviantArt, filed in January 2023. On November 29, 2023, this filing was supplemented with an additional 455 pages of supporting evidence. The roster encompasses a diverse array of artists, ranging from commercial illustrators, game developers, to contemporary and modern art luminaries. Notable names like Yayoi Kusama, Frida Kahlo, Banksy, Guerrilla Girls, HR Giger, Harmony Korine, David Hockney, Damien Hirst, Cy Twombly, Walt Disney, Picasso, Egon Schiele, Mark Rothco, Francis Bacon, and Andy Warhol feature prominently. Further down the list, artists such as Matisse, Monet, and Vincent van Gogh are mentioned, alongside broader art movements and genres like gorpcore and cottagecore.

Interestingly, the compilation also includes artworks by Hyan Tran, a six-year-old who contributed illustrations based on characters from the game Magic: The Gathering for the Seattle Children’s Hospital in 2021.

The disclosure of this database initially sparked limited exposure on social media platforms but remains accessible through the Internet Archive. This revelation followed a court dismissal of multiple artists’ claims against Midjourney and Stability AI on October 30 in a California federal court. This legal conflict is just one among several disputes surrounding the creation of AI-generated art. Notably, designer Jason Allen faced a setback in September 2023 when his appeal to copyright his AI-generated masterpiece, Théâtre d’Opéra Spatial, was rejected due to its perceived lack of human authorship.

While traditional artists are expected to continue exerting pressure on AI entities like Midjourney and Stability AI until legal clarity is achieved, individuals like Allen, alongside other AI artists, are determined to advocate for legislative changes to safeguard their rights. Designers have been advised to monitor directories for any unauthorized use of their work and pursue legal action as deemed necessary during this transitional phase.

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Last modified: January 4, 2024
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