A judge in California federal court, U.S. District Judge William Orrick, has made significant reductions in a lawsuit filed by visual artists who accused Stability AI, Midjourney, and DeviantArt of misusing their copyrighted work in connection with generative artificial intelligence systems. The judge dismissed some claims from the proposed class action brought by Sarah Andersen, Kelly McKernan, and Karla Ortiz, including all allegations against Midjourney and DeviantArt. However, the judge allowed the artists to file an amended complaint against these two companies, which use Stability’s Stable Diffusion text-to-image technology.
McKernan and Ortiz’s copyright infringement claims were entirely dismissed, but Andersen was permitted to continue pursuing her primary claim, which revolved around Stability’s alleged use of her work to train Stable Diffusion, potentially infringing her copyrights. This particular allegation is central to various lawsuits brought by artists, authors, and copyright owners against generative AI companies.
Judge Orrick recognized that the determination of the truth of these allegations, whether copyright violation occurred in the context of training Stable Diffusion or when it was executed, could not be resolved at this juncture.
The artists’ attorneys, Joseph Saveri and Matthew Butterick, issued a statement expressing confidence that their “core claim” survived and that they could address the court’s concerns about their other claims in an amended complaint to be filed next month.
A spokesperson for Stability declined to comment on the decision, while representatives for Midjourney and DeviantArt did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In their initial complaint from January, the artists alleged that Stability AI had used billions of images “scraped” from the internet, including their own, without permission to teach Stable Diffusion to create its images. However, Judge Orrick sided with the companies, stating that the images created by these AI systems likely did not infringe the artists’ copyrights. He allowed the claims to be amended but expressed scepticism that allegations based on the systems’ output could survive without demonstrating substantial similarity to the artists’ work.
Additionally, the judge dismissed other claims from the artists, such as violations of their publicity rights and unfair competition, with permission to refile. McKernan and Ortiz’s copyright claims were dismissed due to their failure to register their images with the U.S. Copyright Office, a requirement for initiating a copyright lawsuit.