AI Image Dataset Demands Money from Photographer Who Requested Removal of His Photos

Robert Kneschke and LAION

A prominent stock photographer who requested his photos be removed from a dataset used to train AI image generators has been sent an invoice demanding $1,000.

Robert Kneschke used the website Have I Been Trained? to find that “heaps” of his photos had been included in the LAION dataset that artificial intelligence (AI) image generators like Stable Diffusion uses to inform its algorithm.

Kneschke wanted his stock photos removed from the LAION data pool. But in a shocking turn of events, the German photographer received a threatening letter from a law firm acting on behalf of LAION.

In the letter, the lawyers argued that LAION “only maintains a database containing links to image files that are publicly available on the Internet,” arguing that it does not keep the image data so there it can’t delete the file.

“There are simply no pictures that could be deleted,” adds the Hanover-based law firm Heidrich Rechtsanwälte.

LAION Demands Money from the Photographer

After shooting down Kneschke’s request to remove his images, LAION’s lawyers took the extraordinary step of demanding 887 euros ($980) from the photographer for an “unjustified claim.”

“We had already pointed out to your client that our client is entitled to claims for damages in accordance with Section 97a (4) UrhG in the event of an unjustified claim,” writes the lawyers acting on behalf of LAION.

“At the time, our client had refrained from asserting this claim, but now feels unable to be lenient here. She incurred legal fees for defending against the obviously unjustified warning you issued, which our client will not bear herself.”

Robert Kneschke
Robert Kneschke | Photo by Mareen Fischinger

“LAION e.V. uses masses of copyrighted works so that commercially operating companies can make a profit,” Kneschke tells PetaPixel.

“If I, as the author, ask for my images to be removed from the training data and to fulfill my legal right to information, I am supposed to pay damages to them? That feels like adding insult to injury.”

The lawyers’ letters were published to Kneschke’s website where he promises not to back down.

“It is quite fitting that the law firm has threatened that they are ‘inclined to have the matter resolved by a court’,” he writes. “We’re just as ‘inclined’ and already working on the claim statement for the court.”

PetaPixel reached out to LAION but did not hear back before publication.

Update 4/26: The first version of this article stated that LAION is demanding 9,000 euros when in fact the company is asking for 887 euros.

Image credits: Photo of Kneschke by Mareen Fischinger.