Photographer Sues Google for Using Her Photos to Train AI Image Generator


Photographer Jingna Zhang has launched a lawsuit against Google along with three other artists who accuse the search giant of using their copyrighted work in the training of its AI image generator model Imagen.

Zhang v. Google LLC will be heard by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California as the artists seek to establish whether AI tech companies are allowed to use copyrighted works made by humans to build generative AI models.

Zhang and cartoonists Sarah Andersen, Hope Larson, and Jessica Fink accuse Google of misusing billions of copyrighted images, including their own, to teach Imagen how to make pictures from text prompts. Zhang and Andersen are also involved in a similar lawsuit against Midjourney and Stability AI.

Futurism reports that the case centers around Google’s use of the publicly available LAION-400M dataset which it noted in a 2022 paper about Imagen. Zhang’s photos are contained in the set along with millions of others.

The artists’ attorneys Joseph Saveri and Matthew Butterick said in a statement per Reuters that the case was “another instance of a multi-trillion-dollar tech company choosing to train a commercial AI product on the copyrighted works of others without consent, credit, or compensation.”

But Google made plain that it will fight the case in a statement to the global news agency.

“Our AI models are trained primarily on publicly available information on the internet,” says Google spokesperson Jose Castaneda. “American law has long supported using public information in new and beneficial ways, and we will refute these claims in court.”

In subsequent releases of Imagen, Google has not explicitly mentioned the LAION dataset by name which the plaintiffs argue is “to avoid being named as a defendant in a lawsuit over the legality of training on mass quantities of copyrighted works without consent, credit, or compensation.”

The artists have requested from the court an unspecified amount of monetary damages and an order forcing Google to destroy its copies of their work.

Zhang has previously been embroiled in a copyright lawsuit with a fine art painter after accusing Jeff Dieschburg of copying one of her photos that went on to win a contemporary art award.

Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.