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Epic’s Sweeney says AI firms shouldn’t ‘hoover up everyone’s art data’

The CEO of ArtStation parent company Epic Games, Tim Sweeney, has said that artificial intelligence outfits should not be using peoples’ artwork in their commercial products.

Speaking to PC Gamer, the industry vet said that these tech firms should not be taking the hard work of artists without permission. Sweeney said that its use in training data for research is fine, but for commercial services that they will be selling it’s not okay.

“They’re scraping the web to find people’s artwork and then using it, and not getting their explicit say-so on the thing,” Sweeney said.

“And a company shouldn’t do that sort of thing, right? Maybe that’s in bounds for research, but when you’re selling a commercial product that’s used to generate commercial artwork, you shouldn’t do that.”

In 2022, Epic added the ‘noAI’ tag so that users of its ArtStation platform could dictate whether their artwork ended up being used in AI training.

With it becoming more prevalent, the ways in which AI is being trained have come under scrutiny. For example, OpenAI’s art generation platform DALL-E has been found to have effectively stolen people’s art without permission – namely because watermarks and creator signatures have popped up in generated art.

All this being said, Sweeney hasn’t ruled out Epic using AI in its work.

“At Epic, we see ourselves as being on both sides,” he said.

“We’re creatives ourselves. We have a lot of artists in the family. We’re a tool company, too. We support a lot of game developers. Some of them will use AI, some of them will hate AI, and we want to be a trustable neutral intermediary that doesn’t get in the way of industry development, but also isn’t going off and hoovering up everybody’s art data.”

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