The Diverging Future of AI Images in Stock Image Businesses The Diverging Future of AI Images in Stock Image Businesses The Diverging Future of AI Images in Stock Image Businesses

There's an interesting divide happening between Getty and Shutterstock, two massive stock image businesses, with regards to AI-generated media.


“We took a step around AI-generated imagery to protect our customers,” Peters told The Verge. “There’s a lot of questions out there right now — about who owns the copyright to that material, about the rights that were leveraged to create that material — and we don’t want to put our customers into that legal risk area [...] There have been assertions that copyright is owned by x, y, z, by certain platforms, but I don’t think those questions have been answered.”

Peters added: “I think we’re watching some organizations and individuals and companies being reckless [...] I think the fact that these questions are not being addressed is the issue here. In some case, they’re just being thrown to the wayside. I think that’s dangerous. I don’t think it’s responsible. I think it could be illegal.”


Today, stock image giant Shutterstock has announced an extended partnership with OpenAI, which will see the AI lab’s text-to-image model DALL-E 2 directly integrated into Shutterstock “in the coming months.” In addition, Shutterstock is launching a “Contributor Fund” that will reimburse creators when the company sells work to train text-to-image AI models. This follows widespread criticism from artists whose output has been scraped from the web without their consent to create these systems. Notably, Shutterstock is also banning the sale of AI-generated art on its site that is not made using its DALL-E integration.

In a press statement, Shutterstock’s CEO Paul Hennessy said: “The mediums to express creativity are constantly evolving and expanding. We recognize that it is our great responsibility to embrace this evolution and to ensure that the generative technology that drives innovation is grounded in ethical practices.”

The legal questions around this – also evidenced by the Github Copilot saga (and others) – will take some time to get sorted out, either through lobbying and laws being passed or through court cases winding their way through the legal system.

But in the meantime, I agree with both, with caveats. Getty's right to say that there's a lot of grey area right now. But Shutterstock's perspective is also interesting in that they can train a DALL-E clone on their owned content – stock images are intended for transformation and shutterstock could become it's own "customer" in that sense, and sell remixed materials.  The question then becomes a business question, of how much they'd be in competition with their creators, but that's for them to decide.

Getty Source: Getty Images CEO says firms racing to sell AI art could be stepping into illegal territory,

ShutterStock source: Shutterstock will start selling AI-generated stock imagery with help from OpenAI,