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Shutterstock and OpenAI will team up to sell AI-generated stock images

DALL-E artwork could soon be widespread online.
This photo illustration shows the DALL-E website reflected between a computer screen and cellphone in Washington, DC, on July 20, 2022. - A million people eager to dabble with a new artificial intelligence tool that lets them create images simply by describing them with words will soon get their wish, its creators said Wednesday.
Artificial intelligence research firm OpenAI is conducting a wide-scale beta test of DALL-E, a cutting-edge software that creates images from textual descriptions. (Photo by Stefani Reynolds / AFP) (Photo by STEFANI REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)
Jon Fingas
Jon Fingas|@jonfingas|October 25, 2022 9:39 AM

Shutterstock is eager to embrace AI-generated art. As The Verge reports, the photo provider has widened its deal with OpenAI to begin selling stock images built using the DALL-E 2 AI generator. The approach will offer "direct access" to DALL-E through the Shutterstock website, and compensate creators whose pictures played a role in developing the technology through a new Contributor Fund. The company also plans to pay royalties to artists when the AI uses their work.

OpenAI licensed Shutterstock pictures and data to train DALL-E's text-to-image generation models in 2021. The expanded deal represents one of the first practical uses of the tech through OpenAI's programming kit.

The DALL-E integration will be available sometime in the "coming months." Crucially, Shutterstock will also ban AI-generated art that wasn't produced through OpenAI's platform. That will protect the companies' business models, of course, but it will also ensure that Shutterstock can identify the content used and pay the producers accordingly. Payments will arrive every six months and include revenue from both training data and image royalties.

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This is the first major compensation-based deal of its kind, and could help settle questions of whether or not AI-generated art is borrowed or stolen. Other companies have been more cautious. Shutterstock rival Getty Images has completely banned AI-made images over copyright concerns, and is even using filters to stop that content from getting through. Google, meanwhile, is keeping its Imagen tool private until (and unless) it can find a "responsible" way to make the system available to the public.

There are lingering issues. It's not clear just how Shutterstock will pay creators. Artists will likely earn less from these AI-licensing payments than if customers pay for the original images DALL-E uses to create its amalgamations. While this deal is a step toward harmony between AI and the creative world, it's not the definitive solution.

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Shutterstock and OpenAI will team up to sell AI-generated stock images