I stumbled upon a new technology in mid-2022, when designing the Decoupage Queen Christmas release. Specifically, the program I came across is called MidJourney. The images were unlike any I had ever seen before. Colorful, poignant, highly detailed and haunting. As a creator whose primary business is printed images for creative use, I was intrigued to say the least.
About AI Programs
The programs use word prompts to generate an image based on the prompts you type in. You have likely seen images created by MidJourney and similar programs all over the internet at this point. Some are beautiful, picturesque landscapes, futuristic people and animals, fairy tale scenes, highly ornate cakes, shoes, dresses and buildings are circulating to name a few. Most of the time, the creators of these images are sharing credit with the AI program used, but sometimes they are not. A regular person can easily mistake one of these images as something someone created or painted by hand and then photographed, then compare the apparent skills of the creator to their own, and easily become discouraged. I’ve noticed this trend repeatedly and I am disturbed by it.
I generated some beautiful Christmas village scenes and I considered introducing these in the Christmas 2022 collection. However, I held them back for these reasons and decided instead to do some more research as I was starting to hear troubling facts. First and foremost, the data sets that the AI models have been “trained” on include works from living artists, who did not consent to their work being used for AI training, nor were they compensated for that use. Many artists are still unaware if their work was used and are having to navigate an unclear path forward on how to find out and ultimately, “opt out” of having their works used without permission. Currently, it is not possible for them to opt out or to have their images erased from the data sets. Users of AI technology are now able to generate works in the style of living artists without either their knowledge or compensation for their work. Just as troubling is some of these datasets have also used confidential medical records for training their engines. Additionally, there is an alarming potential for deep-fakes and a lack of copyright case law over if and how the images generated can or should be protected. For more information about the background and ethical issues, the Concept Art Association has a great resource here: https://www.conceptartassociation.com/advocacy
Unreleased Christmas Paper Using AI
At Decoupage Queen, we firmly believe that artists deserve to be paid for their work. We currently partner with artists to create both original designs as well as content for our marketing and social media. We have intentionally moved to a model that allows for compensation of all our artists. Therefore, fundamentally, the use of AI in its current form is counter to our company’s values. Without human artists, we cannot thrive as a company or industry. However, we recognize that this technology is here to stay and, if used responsibly and ethically, it has an enormous potential for good. Here is what we are doing to raise awareness and help further the cause started by the Concept Art Association.
- We created our Spring Gowns Paper and the perfume bottles on our Coco Paper with the assistance of Midjourney. We commit to always inform our customers when we use Artificial Intelligence in our designs and we call on our partners and competitors do the same.
- We will continue to use artwork created by human artists who are compensated via licensing or royalties. Any use of Artificial Intelligence in our collections will be minimal, if at all in future releases.
- We are committed to furthering the research of ethical AI usage and to contribute to the Concept Art Association’s efforts to create change in Washington. All profits from the sale of our “Spring Gowns” paper will be donated to the Concept Art Association Gofundme campaign (link below).
- We hope that you will consider contributing alongside us and holding the companies you support accountable to ethical AI practices.