Artists Sue Google for Alleged AI Image Copyright Infringement

Lawyers have also taken legal action against OpenAI, Meta, Nvidia and Databricks with legal action on behalf of book authors

Ben Wodecki, Jr. Editor

May 1, 2024

2 Min Read
Six AI-generated images including a cat wearing sunglasses and a dog living in a house made of sushi
Example Imagen generationsGoogle

A group of artists has filed a class action against Google alleging its Imagen AI model was trained on their works without permission.

The lawsuit, filed in a California District Court, claims the text-to-image model is an “infringing derivative work” as it contains copies of their images that were reproduced “multiple times.”

The artists allege Google conducted “massive copyright infringement” through its Imagen model and demand damages based on the company’s “wrongful conduct.”

The at-issue images are alleged to have been used to train other Google AI models, the complaint claims, including Imagen 2 and multimodal systems like the company’s flagship foundation model Gemini.

The complaint said: “[The] plaintiffs never authorized Google to use their copyrighted work in any way. Nevertheless, Google repeatedly violated plaintiffs’ exclusive rights… and continues to do so today.”

Google launched Imagen in May 2022 when text-to-image models like Stable Diffusion and Midjourney first began to emerge. Imagen 2 would debut the following December.

The image generation model was embedded into Google Cloud platforms like Vertex, enabling users to generate images for business needs. It would also be used as the underlying image generator for generative 3D models like Google DreamFusion.

Related:Nvidia Sued Over Copyright Claims for Using Books to Train AI Platform

Among the datasets used to develop Imagen was LAION-400M, an open source corpus containing URLs to images for model training.

The artists claim their work appeared in that dataset and since Google copied LAION-400M to build its own AI systems, the company in effect created copies of their work without permission.

“The intermediate copies of each copyrighted work that Google made during training of the Google LAION Models were substantially similar to that copyrighted work,” the lawsuit says. “[The] plaintiffs have been injured by Google’s acts of direct copyright infringement.”

The artists have demanded that Google destroy all reproduced copies of their work and that the company pay their legal costs.

Lawyers behind the 2022 GitHub Copilot lawsuit are representing the artists. They have also taken legal action against OpenAI, Meta, Nvidia and Databricks with legal action on behalf of book authors.

Alongside Google, Joseph Saveri and Matthew Butterick have brought copyright infringement lawsuits against image generators Midjourney, Runway ML and Stable Diffusion on behalf of artists.

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ChatGPT / Generative AI

About the Author(s)

Ben Wodecki

Jr. Editor

Ben Wodecki is the Jr. Editor of AI Business, covering a wide range of AI content. Ben joined the team in March 2021 as assistant editor and was promoted to Jr. Editor. He has written for The New Statesman, Intellectual Property Magazine, and The Telegraph India, among others. He holds an MSc in Digital Journalism from Middlesex University.

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