Generative AI Shock Wave / New Software Protects Artwork from AI Imitations

Courtesy of Prof. Ben Zhao
From left, a piece by a U.S. artist that is protected by the Glaze software, and an image generated by AI based on an image of the U.S. artist’s work that has a completely different artistic style from the original

Efforts are underway to protect artists and others from images generated through artificial intelligence.

Courtesy of Prof. Ben Zhao
University of Chicago Prof. Ben Zhao

Ben Zhao, a professor of computer science at the University of Chicago, and his team have developed a software named Glaze that prevents the imitation of artwork.

Zhao and his team focused on the difference between human and AI vision. Glaze applies small changes, difficult to perceive with the human eye, to images of artwork before they are posted online. This causes AI to interpret the artwork as a different style than it actually is, thereby preventing creation of similar pieces.

During the development process, the team interviewed more than 1,150 artists and learned about their struggles. Many artists lost their jobs because long-time clients had begun to rely on cheap AI generators. Art school teachers told Zhao that many students had left school as they grew pessimistic about the future of the industry.

The impact of generative AI is said to be widespread, with the voices of actors and singers also being reproduced.

According to Zhao, the team also received inquiries about Glaze from a number of Japanese artists. “I do know that in Japan, many artists are feeling depressed, despair, because they do feel like many of their artistic styles are being replaced by AI,” Zhao said.

Generative AI is said to be at the stage of learning to copy and replicate. Zhao fears that if the number of artists declines because of AI, there will be no new works produced for AI to learn from.

“AI models are only as good as the data that they train on,” Zhao said.

While welcoming the advancement of technology, Zhao stressed the importance of human creativity. He said society needs to understand that “in order for these AI models to continue to grow and to get better, they have to have humans, they have to support humans, they have to allow the human creative industries to continue to grow and flourish.”

“The artists have to be protected,” he said.