Art Is Not a Zero Sum Game

I’ve been getting quieter on here (note: this post is converted from a thread on Twitter) about AI art, because the communities I’m in clearly hate it with a raging passion.

But I love AI art. And I’m really disappointed in Uncanny Magazine’s choice to publish a whole essay calling it theft, plain and simple.

As the editor of Zooscape, I switched this summer to using AI art for illustrations.

The purpose of Zooscape is to help people understand furry fiction, and visual art doesn’t necessarily have to play a role in that at all. However, it’s easier to catch eyes with images.

So, for years now, I’ve spent hours and hours combing public domain image archives or cobbling together pieces of art myself using photography and art apps to provide illustrations for every single story in Zooscape. Some are really not great. They were the best I could do.

The entirety of Zooscape’s budget goes to paying the authors. Everything else, including all my time, comes from my pocket. There is zero budget for visual art. So, when I switched to using AI art, no artists lost jobs.

But for once, finally, the stories had art suited to them.

I spent hours and hours (just as I had before combing pub domain archives) generating and regenerating art using AI programs (and sometimes hand editing it) until I had pieces that I thought captured some of the heart and soul of Zooscape’s stories.

It was an act of love.

I plan to continue illustrating Zooscape using AI art. It makes me sad that this puts me at odds with most of the furry community as well as, now, the sf/f community.

Yes, there are complicated questions around AI art. None of us know exactly how all this will shake out…

People are hearing over and over that “AI art is theft” that it’s just “collage.” But just because something gets repeated over and over doesn’t make it true.

I’ve taken nothing away from any artists by illustrating Zooscape with AI art. I’ve simply added something to the world.

Yes, some artists will lose opportunities because of AI art programs, but other artists will find themselves empowered to make things they’d envisioned before but not had the power and wherewithal to actually bring into existence.

Loss of opportunity is not the same as theft. Making something using knowledge of a preexisting thing is not theft.

I do not believe AI art is theft, and I don’t appreciate being called a thief.

This is not a straightforward, uncomplicated, “plain and simple” issue.

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