Getty Images sues Stability AI in US for copyright infringement

7 Feb 2023

Image: © Eric BVD/

London-based Stability AI allegedly used more than 12m photos from Getty Images without permission for its AI image generation tool, Stable Diffusion.

Getty Images is ramping up its fight against artificial intelligence-based image generation start-up Stability AI by suing it in a US court for copyright infringement.

In a lawsuit filed earlier this month and made public yesterday (6 February), Getty Images has accused Stability AI of “brazen infringement” of its intellectual property “on a staggering scale”.

The London-based start-up allegedly copied more than 12m photos – along with captions and metadata – from Getty Images’ collection without obtaining permission or compensating them.

“As part of its unlawful scheme, Stability AI has removed or altered Getty Images’ copyright management information, provided false copyright management information, and infringed Getty Images’ famous trademarks,” the company wrote in the complaint.

The move marks an escalation over last month, when Getty Images sued Stability AI in London for the same reasons. It claimed the start-up “unlawfully copied and processed” millions of copyright-protected images for its own commercial benefit and “to the detriment of content creators”.

Stability AI’s text-to-image generator, Stable Diffusion, can create new images based on a sentence a user inputs, combining different concepts, attributes and styles. These AI models like Midjourney and DALL-E are trained using a massive number of existing images.

However, concerns have been raised that some of the content used to train these models could be copyright protected and taken without the consent of artists.

Last September, Getty Images issued a ban on the upload and sale of AI-generated images on its platform. The company said this was due to “open questions” surrounding the copyright of AI-generated images, along with uncertainty surrounding the data these AI models are trained on.

Getty Images now wants to recover “damages” it has allegedly suffered from Stability AI’s actions, and prevent the “irreparable harm” caused by the start-up’s “intentional and wilful” acts.

The company also acknowledged that its visual assets are “highly desirable” for use in connection with AI and machine learning because of their “high quality” and because they are accompanied by “content-specific, detailed captions and rich metadata”.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic