Monday, March 25, 2024

Does AI mean Open Exhibitions / Art Competitions need to rethink digital entries?

Last week I reshared a post on Facebook (see below) which highlighted how many images are now created using "artificial intelligence" aka AI. 

It occurred to me that ALL those organising open exhibitions and/or art competitions MUST now to factor the proliferation of AI into 
  • the calls for entries
  • the rules and regulations
  • the submission process
  • the vetting process
  • the judging process
  • plus briefings on legal decisions for all those in charge
It simply will NOT be acceptable for all entries to be judged on digital images - only to find that a selected entry is a digital print when it arrives for exhibition.

Below I remind organisers of open exhibitions by art societies and art competitions of things they need to think about
  • starting with a very salutary lesson in what happens when you get it wrong - see The AWS Gold Medal Controversy (2008-2010)
  • a reminder about normal challenges for organisers in relation to copyright
  • some initial thoughts on the implications for art competitions and open exhibitions - by way of a checklist!

The AWS Gold Medal Controversy

Unfortunately, the Gold Medal winning painting in the 2008 exhibition, “Impermanence” by Sheryl Luxenburg has generated a huge volume of controversy. In question are the ownership of the image, the originality of the piece and even the authenticity of the medium. Many have questioned the American Watercolor Society's position on this problem and wondered in their communications to us whether our society is taking these questions seriously. Statement in 2008 by the AWS
Should anybody need reminding - here's the link to my post about the debacle at the American Watercolour Society about an "artwork" which won a Gold Medal . 
Was the gold medal winning painting at the centre of the American Watercolor Society controversy actually painted - or was it a giclee print?
See below for links to posts in September 2008 about the AWS Gold medal controversy - in reverse order of posting
Incidentally Sheryl Luxenberg is still painting, makes no reference to what happened on her website but is now apparently very open about the process she uses - but she is now very clear she only uses her own photographic images. See Process

Copyright Challenges

ineligible works do get submitted to art competitions; do get shortlisted; do get into exhibtions and do win prizes. This is not the first time it's happened.  American Watercolor Society Gold Medal - the final verdict on Sheryl Luxenburg
Most art societies and art competitions already make it explicit that works submitted for juried exhibitions
  • must NOT be copies of existing copyrighted works by other people and
  • must be original ie the artist should be capable of asserting copyright over the work submitted.
This is the universal catchall requirement for all AI images generated using other people's original images. 

Remembering that in the UK, it's the act of creation which means it is copyrighted. There is no need to register it to acquire copyright.

Copyright is what is going to cause problems for the AI "artists" despite the fact there are a lot of chancers out there who don't think anybody will notice they've covered somebody else's work - or that they have added enough new work to it to make it their own.  But that's now how copyright works. See previous section - which is what, in the end, sealed the fate of the artist.

References to Legal News re AI and Copyright

I'm going to be watching all the legal cases which have been and will continue crop up in the news very carefully - and will be developing a new page in the Copyright section of my Art Business Info for Artists website.

Here's a few for reference:
The first wave of intellectual property lawsuits against generative AI companies has been dominated by copyright claims. A lot of billiable hours have been dedicated to the fair use defense, and whether it applies to this new technology. But a handful of pending cases could open a back door to IP infringement liability: one that’s accessible through trademark law.

Checklist: Art Exhibitions & Open Exhibitions

My view is there is absolutely no scope for "heads in the sand". AI is not going to go away. So ways must be found of working with it and around it.
AI images have quickly evolved from laughably bizarre to frighteningly believable, and there are big consequences to not being able to tell authentically created images from those generated by artificial intelligence. Can You Spot AI-Generated Images? Take Our Quiz to Test Your Skills
Here are some of the things which have occurred to me need doing to take account of the proliferation of AI
  • Organisational Learning: Learn about Artiticial Intelligence and:
    • how it is created
    • how it can be detected i.e. telltale signs
    • how copyright works in relation to AI, artists and their art
    • one way of keeping up to date is to include a Google Alert for a very specific combination of words. "AI art" generates 4,640,000,000 results on Google Search - so maybe something more refined?
  • Call for Entries: MUST be rewritten to make explicit reference to AI and that AI ART is not acceptable
    • new statement about artwork which is NOT eligible
    • new certificate by the artist - for every submission stating explicitly that the artwork is original, all their own work and is not either infringing copyright nor created using AI
  • Images: in addition to digital images of the artwork being entered, it might also be necessary to ask artists to submit , additional evidence that it is an original and not AI. Such images might be limited to those longlisted for selection
    • a work in progress image of the artwork being submitted 
    • ditto within the context of their studio
  • Vetting
    • Maybe return to getting artwork submitted for inspection prior to final selection?
    • Have the surface of the work inspected using magnification before putting it in front of the Judge / Selection Panel (What is the level of magnification which reveals it's "not real"?)
    • NITTY GRITTY: the organisation calling for entries needs to be satisfied that its rules and vetting process means that it cannot be joined in any legal action against the artist of an AI artwork based in another artist's original art.
    • REFERENCE: Can You Spot AI-Generated Images? Take Our Quiz to Test Your Skills | PC MAG (7 March 2024)
  • Judging: 
    • Brief all selectors about AI and how it can be detected
    • Explain what has been done
    • Explain what they need to watch out for and how to express any doubts they might have
  • Media Communication
    • determine whether you need to ask visitors to report any artworks they consider suspect - with reasons why
    • (I've certainly reported both artworks and artists to organisations in the past re things I spotted which should invalidate an entry - although mine are usually matters relating to dates or "not exhibited before")

How to follow up on this

I'll be posting a link to this post on my Facebook Page

I'll then be inviting artists to comment on 
  • anything relevant to the topic
  • what their expectations are as to how organisers of art competitions and open exhibitions will protect their own interests by protecting the artist's artwork.

IMAGE: Emily Mary Osborn (1828 - 1925) - Nameless and Friendless.

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