Can you use an AI image generator tool? Of course.
Are there legal risks when doing so? Absolutely.
AI Image Ownership
So you don’t know if you own the generated image or have some type of license (nonexclusive?) to use it.
And the source material for the AI image is rarely known.
For instance, an AI tool creator may be relying upon an image database scraped (illegally) from others’ websites, stock photos without procuring proper licensing, etc.
Of course, these types of issues lead to claims of copyright infringement. And, if you lose such a claim in the United States, you could be facing statutory damages of up to $150,000 per infringement plus attorneys’ fees and court costs.
And that’s just the infringement issue.
What if the AI generator creates an image for you that looks like someone?
If the image looks like a celebrity, you could be facing claims for misappropriation of the celebrity’s likeness for commercial purposes. A grocery store once used basketball legend Michael Jordan’s image without his permission (or paying him to do so up front). By the time the lawsuit was over, they ended up paying $9.8 million in damages.
False Light Portrayals
Now what if the image generated by the artificial intelligence tool looks like someone who isn’t famous? You can still be potentially liable if it’s determined you portrayed that person in a false or negative light.
How does that work? There once was a model whose picture was used (without her permission) in advertising for a strip club. She sued because the strip club’s advertisements allegedly hurt her reputation by falsely portraying her as a stripper.
So, what’s the solution to these dangers?
Until the legal issues are cleared up through years of litigation, probably the safest thing to do is procure images through reputable stock photo licensing companies and don’t use the images in a way that would embarrass the models (e.g., the stripper example).
And you can also pay to have custom images created for you by designers, professional photographers, etc. Just make sure there are proper releases signed and you can verify the IP rights you have (e.g., ownership, license, etc.) to these images in case someone makes a claim.
If you need legal help as the creator of an AI image creator tool or as a business owner who uses images, let’s talk.