Viral list of artists whose work trained Midjourney causes anger


Artists across the world are biting back against Midjourney after two lists of artists slated to be used as training material were shared online.

The generative artificial intelligence (AI) company is currently subject to a class action lawsuit that claims it has violated the rights of artists by using their works as training materials.

The first list was originally part of the lawsuit but was shared online last year by video game artist John Lam. The linked document has been made private by its owners.

In addition to this list, a much larger spreadsheet, which contains nearly 16,000 artists in a list labeled “proposed additions,” has been circulating. The document is no longer public, but there is an archived version on The Wayback Machine.

According to screenshots shared by Lam, the list was shared on Midjourney’s public-facing Discord server. Speaking to NBC, Lam said, “It just seemed like they didn’t really put much effort into hiding anything because it was all public. So artists caught wind of this; we found the document.”

The developers intended to ‘preload’ certain styles, which were associated with artists, to enable quicker image generation. They encouraged users to propose more styles and images for their list.

Artists are suffering due to generative AI

Lam continues, expressing the feeling of shock at finding himself and his friends on the list: “When you click on the Artists tab, you literally see thousands and thousands of artists that we know. And a lot of my friends have found themselves on these lists — and they didn’t even know that they were being trained on.”

The senior storyboard artist at Riot Games went on to point out the harsh realities that generative AI has on human artists. “Everybody was just too excited with these image generators to really care about how the sausage was made. A lot of my friends are struggling to pay their rent and pay their bills. Their rates for commissions are being slashed because people are losing value.”

Generative AI is still highly controversial, as evidenced by the lawsuit. Artists argue that taking their images to use and train AI, which can then reproduce work in their style, diminishes the hard work that goes into creating art. Researchers are going so far as to develop methods to “poison” images so they can’t be used in generative AI training data.

Featured image credit: Google DeepMind via Pexels

Ali Rees

Ali Rees is a freelance journalist and mature student based in Scotland.


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