Getty Images bans AI-generated content amid copyright concerns

22 Sep 2022

Image: © Eric BVD/

The company said it made the decision due to ‘open questions’ around the copyright of AI-generated images, though it may prove difficult to enforce the ban.

Getty Images has issued a ban on the upload and sale of AI-generated images on its platform.

The image repository shared a note to its contributors saying that images from text-to-image generators such as Stable Diffusion, Midjourney and OpenAI’s DALL-E will not be allowed on the site.

The note seen by PetaPixel said there are “open questions” surrounding the copyright of AI-generated images, along with uncertainty surrounding the data these AI models are trained on.

“These changes do not prevent the submission of 3D renders and do not impact the use of digital editing tools with respect to modifying and creating imagery,” Getty Images said.

Getty Images CEO Craig Peters told The Verge that the decision came from a mix of legal concerns for the company and a desire to protect its customers.

“There are real concerns with respect to the copyright of outputs from these models and unaddressed rights issues with respect to the imagery, the image metadata and those individuals contained within the imagery,” Peters said.

Enforcing the ban may prove difficult however, as Peters told The Verge that the company will rely on users to identify and report AI-generated images. Getty Images is also working on new filters to keep these images off the site.

The rise of AI art

AI-generated images have become far more prevalent this year as new text-to-image models become available. These models offer new possibilities for users – including using their generations for commercial purposes.

But legal questions have been raised, such as who truly owns the images and if they might infringe on existing copyrighted works.

JumpStory co-founder Jonathan Løw told that there is a growing “legal minefield” around using AI-generated images for commercial purposes. He also said that the legal risk may fall on the end user if their commercially used image enters a copyright dispute.

“Even though Open-AI, Midjourney and others claim that their images can be used commercially, their terms and conditions still state that they don’t offer you any kind of insurance of financial help if you get into legal trouble,” Løw said. “So at the end of the day you are running all the risks as a user.”

Some online art communities have also raised issues with the ethics of AI-generated images and have started banning them from their sites.

Polish digital artist Greg Rutkowski recently claimed that many of his landscape illustrations are being used by the Stable Diffusion AI to create new images based off his work.

And an AI-generated artwork sparked debate last month after it won a prize in the Colorado State Fair’s fine art competition. The winning image was generated using the Midjourney text-to-image AI, and the creator was criticised by some for what they saw as a flagrant disregard for artistic practices.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic