Shutterstock to sell AI-generated images from OpenAI’s DALL-E

26 Oct 2022

Image: © picsmart/

Shutterstock said it plans to provide compensation to artists whose works were used to train AI image-generating models.

Stock image giant Shutterstock is expanding its partnership with OpenAI and will sell AI-generated images on its site.

The collaboration will see OpenAI’s text-to-image generator, DALL-E 2, integrated into Shutterstock “in the coming months”.

DALL-E 2 has gained significant attention this year. When a user inputs a phrase or a string of words into this AI system, it is able to interpret the description and create multiple images based on the text prompt.

Last month, OpenAI removed the waitlist for DALL-E to give wider access to the text-to-image model and further improve the AI technology.

Shutterstock said its customers now will receive direct access to the model’s image-generation capabilities to “improve their creative workflows”.

Paul Hennessy, CEO of the stock image company, said the media for expressing creativity are evolving. He added that there is “great responsibility” to ensure the generative technology that drives innovation “is grounded in ethical practices”.

“We have a long history of integrating AI into every part of our business,” Hennessy said. “This expert-level competency makes Shutterstock the ideal partner to help our creative community navigate this new technology.

“We’re committed to developing best practices and experiences to deliver on our purpose, which is to empower the world to create with confidence.”

The new agreement deepens Shutterstock’s strategic partnership with OpenAI, which began last year.

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman said the data that was licensed from Shutterstock was “critical” for the training of the DALL-E model.

“We’re excited for Shutterstock to offer DALL-E images to its customers as one of the first deployments through our API, and we look forward to future collaborations as artificial intelligence becomes an integral part of artists’ creative workflows,” Altman added.

Artist compensation

AI models such as DALL-E are trained using a massive amount of images. There have been concerns raised that some of these models use copyrighted images as part of their training datasets.

For example, 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.

Shutterstock said AI-generated content is the “cumulative effort” of contributing artists. To create new revenue streams for these artists, the company said it plans to provide “additional compensation” for artists whose works have contributed to develop the AI models.

Shutterstock said it also plans to compensate these contributors in the form of royalties when their intellectual property is used.

Online art communities have been raising issues with the ethics of AI-generated images and have started banning them from their sites.

In September, Getty Images also issued a ban on AI-generated images due to “open questions” around copyright and uncertainty surrounding the data these AI models are trained on.

Getty Images CEO Craig Peters told The Verge this week that companies which are “racing” to commercialise AI images are not considering the potential legal and ethical issues surrounding the technology.

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

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic