Artists Protest After ArtStation Features AI-Generated Images [Update]

The industry's biggest portfolio site has few protections in place against it, though that may change

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Image: Alexander Nanitchkov

ArtStation is probably the most important website on the whole internet for professional artists, especially those working in entertainment fields like video games. Most of our Fine Art links, for example, point there. Which is why the site’s continued allowance of AI-generated imagery has become a point of contention with its users.

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UPDATE 9:00pm ET December 14: ArtStation has since published an FAQ on the matter that has made things even worse. Original story follows.

The technology, which is rotten to its core, is of particular concern to a community who make a living creating art, and as such should also be a concern to the companies responsible for owning and hosting that community. But as of today, ArtStation has no policy directly restricting the hosting or display of AI-generated imagery on the site, which has led to repeated instances where images made by computers, and not humans, have floated to the top of ArtStation’s “Explore” section, its most popular means of showcasing the work of artists.


That is, understandably, pissing a lot of people off. Indeed, over the last 24 hours so many artists have become so incensed by the site’s allowance of AI-generated imagery that they’ve begun spamming their portfolios. A protest sparked by illustrator Nicholas Kole and costume designer Imogen Chayes resulting in ArtStation’s front page looking like this at time of writing:


It’s just the same image, originally created by Alexander Nanitchkov and saying “No To AI Generated Images,” pasted over and over again by hundreds of artists:

Image: Alexander Nanitchkov


These artists are right to be upset! The rapidly-encroaching practice of AI-generated imagery is going to trash all kinds of websites, but to allow it on a site specifically designed to showcase the work of talented human artists is an especially bad look.

“ArtStation’s content guidelines do not prohibit the use of AI tools in the process of creating artwork that is shared with the community,” a spokesperson for Epic Games, the owners of ArtStation, tells Kotaku. “That said, ArtStation is a portfolio platform designed to elevate and celebrate originality powered by a community of artists. Users’ portfolios should only feature artwork that they create, and we encourage users to be transparent in the process. Our content guidelines are here.”


The profile of a user submitting AI-generated imagery to ArtStation earlier today
Screenshot: ArtStation

While that’s an expected response given the prevalence of AI-generated imagery currently on the site, and the apparent lack of moderation involved in letting them stay up, Epic also say they “do not make any agreements with companies allowing them to scrape content on our website. If AI companies are doing this without permission and beyond purely academic use (where copyright fair use may apply), they may be infringing the rights of ArtStation creators.”


Epic also say they are “in the process of giving ArtStation users more control over how their work is shared and labeled, and we will provide more details in the near future.”

While that veiled legal threat is perhaps a sign that Epic aren’t quite as cool with the practice as it seems, and word that user controls are coming in the “near future” is promising to an extent, that doesn’t change the fact that ArtStation user’s portfolios have already been fed to these AIs, and that it won’t do anything in the short term to stop AI-generated images from encroaching on a website that’s supposed to be showcasing the best in human art.


For now, the best way to detect AI-generated imagery and ignore it (or even better, to report it) is the same way it has been for the past few months: always ask to see the fingers.

Image: Classic Tube
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