Photographers Demand AI Regulation, Tech Industry Happy With Status Quo

An AI robot intimidates a photographer, AI-generated.

As the U.S. Copyright Office continues its public consultancy seeking opinions on how copyright should work with AI-generated material, two camps of thought are clearly emerging.

Photographers, artists, filmmakers, podcasters, and other creatives are demanding regulation for the artificial intelligence industry and calling the practice of internet scraping to train algorithms “thievery.”

Meanwhile, the tech companies see things differently: happy with the status quo, the likes of OpenAI, Meta, and Google think that using content from the internet to train AI systems falls under the “fair use” doctrine.

“The American AI industry is built in part on the understanding that the Copyright Act does not proscribe the use of copyrighted material to train Generative AI models,” says a letter from Meta, the parent company of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.

Meta adds that the purpose of AI training is to identify patterns “across a broad body of content,” not to “extract or reproduce” individual works.

Photographer intimidated by a robot

Creators disagree: “Scraping is theft, plain and simple,” writes the Professional Photographers of America (PPA) in its submission to the Copyright Office’s consultancy.

“AI companies freely admit they need massive volumes of human-created works, which necessarily includes copyrighted works, to make their systems functional and marketable.

“Those companies are now worth tens of billions of dollars — OpenAI has publicly stated its valuation at $90 billion. Again, by their own admission, generative AI systems would not work if they didn’t take our members’ works.”

The PPA adds that legislation is “resoundingly” needed to address the issues with generative AI.

And it’s not just photographers, actor and filmmaker Justin Bateman says she is disturbed that AI models are “ingesting 100 years of film and TV.”

It “appears to many of us to be the largest copyright violation in the history of the United States,” Bateman writes in her submission. “I sincerely hope you can stop this practice of thievery.”

In an interview with The Associated Press, the nation’s top copyright official, Shira Perlmutter, says she hasn’t taken sides yes and is listening to everyone.

“We’ve received close to 10,000 comments, and every one of them is being read by a human being, not a computer. And I myself am reading a large part of them,” says Perlmutter.