NFTs: The stakes of artificial intelligence in creation

The publication in Japan of a manga entirely created by an AI raises questions.

6 questions to better understand the next challenges of artificial intelligence

The author of a manga set to be released in Japan admits to having “zero” talent for drawing: his work, the first in the country entirely created by artificial intelligence, raises concerns for employment and copyright in this lucrative industry.
How can artificial intelligence create a manga from scratch? How do authors make use of this tool? What are the risks to creation? What about copyrights? What is the status of works generated by artificial intelligence programs? Let’s read the six Stakes of Artificial Intelligence.

1. How did a “talentless” author manage to create a 100-page manga in 6 weeks?

All the futuristic machines and creatures in this science-fiction manga titled “Cyberpunk: Peach John” are the work of the Midjourney program, an AI tool that appeared last year and has impressed the world, along with other similar programs such as Stable Diffusion or DALL-E 2.

The Midjourney program, developed in the United States, has gained global success with its fantastic, sometimes absurd or even frightening creations, but often surprisingly sophisticated, prompting many artists to question their profession.

To create his manga, Rootport entered keywords such as “pink hair,” “Asian boy,” and “jacket,” and the machine generated images of the story’s hero in about a minute, although his face is somewhat different from one panel to the next.

“Cyberpunk: Peach John”, the first Japanese manga entirely drawn by AI, at the Shinchosha comics publisher’s office in Tokyo, March 2, 2023 (PHILIP FONG/AFP).

He then assembled the best results onto a comic page to create the book, which is entirely in color, unlike “classic” manga, and is already generating a lot of online buzz before its release. Rootport – the author’s pseudonym – thus created this 100-page manga in just six weeks, whereas an experienced artist would normally take a year, he estimates.

“It was a fun journey, a bit like playing the lottery,” the 37-year-old man told AFP. For the author, image generators using AI have “opened the way for people without artistic talent” provided they have good stories to tell. Rootport describes the satisfaction he felt when his textual instructions, like magical “incantations,” produced images. But he adds that this work with the help of AI “probably wasn’t” as satisfying as if he had drawn them himself.

“Untalented” authors are not the only ones taking advantage of AI. Eiichiro Oda, the author of the phenomenal series One Piece, recently admitted to using ChatGPT, the successful program that generates texts using artificial intelligence, to imagine the plot of the next episode of his series. “Hello. It’s the author. I can’t come up with a plot for One Piece next week. Could you come up with one? A really good one, please,” the author asked ChatGPT, according to a video released by his team on Twitter.

2. What can AI not do instead of humans?

“I am convinced that humans are always better” at imagining scenarios, which are also very important in manga, says Madoka Kobayashi, a manga artist for over 30 years, adding that she does not “really see AI as a threat.” “I think it can be a great companion,” she believes.

“AI can ‘help me visualize what I have in mind, and suggest ideas that I then try to improve,” the artist adds. At the Tokyo Design Academy where she teaches, Madoka Kobayashi invites her students to observe figurines to improve their drawing of details such as muscles or folds in clothing.

“The AI-generated images are great, but I am more attracted to human drawings precisely because they are messy,” says 18-year-old student Ginjiro Uchida. Computer programs struggle to draw hands or faces with deliberately exaggerated proportions like a real mangaka, and “humans still have a greater sense of humor,” he thinks.

Stakes of Artificial Intelligence in manga creation.
Mangaka Rootport demonstrates manga creation using artificial intelligence on January 31, 2023 in Tokyo, Japan (RICHARD A. BROOKS/AFP).

3. Can creators oppose the “right to search”?

AI is causing legal controversies. The start-up behind Stable Diffusion was sued for “feeding” its AI with documents protected by copyright. In Japan, lawmakers have expressed concern about the issue, although experts say that copyright violations are unlikely if AI creations come from simple textual commands.

Faced with artificial intelligences churning out their works to generate content, authors are responding with initial complaints. Their battle will be tough: in Europe and North America, the law leans towards AI but could evolve, according to legal experts.

In January, three artists in the United States filed lawsuits against Stable Diffusion, Midjourney, and DeviantArt, and photo agency Getty against Stable Diffusion. They contest the right of AIs to process billions of texts or images, which has enabled their “learning”. In Europe, a 2019 European directive, transposed in 22 states including France, authorizes this “right to search” (data mining), including on copyrighted content if it is publicly accessible. Unless the rights holder has expressly opposed it.

“This exception to copyright, tailor-made to allow the growth of these technologies, has gone relatively unnoticed,” comments Charles Bouffier, a lawyer at Racine. “For research purposes, the exception is absolute, without possible opposition. But for commercial purposes, rights holders can refuse and indicate it in the general conditions of the site, for example,” he points out. The difficulty will be to ensure that their opposition is respected. “How do you know if a work has been used in the learning phase?” asks Pierre Pérot, a lawyer at August Debouzy.

American law also allows for data mining for fair use, which was established in an anti-Google lawsuit over book digitization won by the American giant.

4. What is the legal status of works generated by AI?

For generated content, the legal status is complex. Is it considered counterfeiting, especially if the user of the AI has requested a production “in the style” of an author or imitating a logo?

French and European law, like American law, only recognizes counterfeiting in the case of copying a specific work. “Neither a genre, a style, nor an idea can be protected by copyright,” notes Eric Barbry, a lawyer at Racine law firm. However, if the source is clearly acknowledged in the generated image, the question arises. In Europe, a notion could protect artists copied by AI: that of “parasitism,” which sanctions the “plundering” of the efforts of others. This French jurisprudence entitles compensation if a loss of earnings is proven.

Recently, luxury fashion houses have won against fashion manufacturers who copied their “universe,” notes Marc Mossé, a lawyer at August Debouzy.

5. Can the user of AI be considered as an author?

Finally, the question arises about the commercial use of these contents. Who owns them? Can they be sold and benefit from copyright?

First of all, lawyers consider that an AI is neither an owner, nor an author, nor responsible. “AIs state in their terms and conditions that the user, and only the user, is responsible for the use they will make of the content,” says Maître Pérot. “So, there is nothing preventing it from being commercialized.”

Should it be specified that it comes from an AI? This could be the case in terms of consumer information. The future European directive on AI (AI Act) could also provide for a transparency obligation.

The subject of copyright remains. French and European law specifies that a work can only benefit from it if it is original and expresses the personality of the author. “This implies that the author is a natural person,” according to Maître Bouffier. “It will be complicated for AI users to present themselves as full-fledged authors,” confirms Maître Barbry. No court in Europe has yet ruled, but in the United States, the Copyright Office has just refused copyright for a comic book generated by AI.

Maître Pérot cites the case of Space Opera Theater, an image generated by AI that won a contest in September. Its producer spent 80 hours refining its instructions and tweaking the result. “We can consider here that the user had a major role and that there is room for copyright,” notes the lawyer, citing “work of supervision, choice, analysis, selection.”

AI-generated productions would thus follow the path of photography, considered a tool product and not a work until a 2011 ruling by the European Court of Justice that recognized photographers’ “creative choices.”

Stakes of Artificial Intelligence in NFTs creation
RenAIssance : An artwork depicting a robot painting a human.

6. What is the legal status of works generated by AI?

Others fear that this technology will harm the employment of young mangaka, and more broadly, artists. The streaming platform Netflix was criticized in January for airing a Japanese anime with backgrounds generated by AI.

“The possibility that the assistants of mangaka may be replaced” one day by a machine “is not zero,” says Satoshi Kurihara, a professor at Keio University in Tokyo, who in 2020 published a manga assisted by AI with his team.

Almost all the drawings in this production in the style of the pioneer of this graphic genre, Osamu Tezuka, were made by humans. But since then, AI has become “of first quality” and will certainly influence the manga industry, he thinks.

Three major Japanese publishers interviewed declined to express their vision of the future impact of AI on the manga industry. Rootport doubts that manga created 100% by AI will become indispensable, but “also does not think that manga made without any AI will dominate forever.”

This article about “Stakes of Artificial Intelligence” was translated from a french article published the 6th March 2023.
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Mieux comprendre les enjeux de l’intelligence artificielle dans la création

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