Blog / 2022 / Welcome to AI’s Disneyland: Eric Bourdages’ Fight for Artists

December 19, 2022

Midjourney, Lensa AI, DALL-E 2, and other AI image generators have been wreaking havoc in the art world for the better part of 2022. These programs use art made by people in order to produce new imagery, and they do all this without asking for permission from the artists whose work is used and—more importantly in my opinion—without paying artists for their labor.

Earlier this month, the Canadian artist Eric Bourdages found a fun way to fight back against the AI companies.

Midjourney generates Mickey Mouse image
Mickey Mouse image generated by Midjourney

Bourdages paid Midjourney to make images like this one. (You can see more in this Daily Dot article.)

The artist reasoned that, if the AI image generators got the attention of Disney’s notoriously curmudgeonly copyright lawyers, then the companies would suddenly need to think about what art is being used to train their programs. They’d be forced to think about how they’re going to share their profits among all those who’ve facilitated their technology’s success.

I love this tactic.

So much of the fight against AI generated imagery at the moment smacks of a “things shouldn’t be this way” kind of attitude. (I was a bit guilty of it myself earlier this year.) Bourdages’ approach is more: “So this is the way the world works? Alrighty then!” He’s serving Midjourney to Disney’s copyright-infringement-obsessed legal team with a pinch of saltiness and a fistful of IP violations.

Will today’s rulers of the rip-off—Midjourney, DALL-E 2, and Lensa AI—defeat Disney, the OG culturally exploitative company par excellence? Might the two forces mutually annihilate each other? Or will Disney only be made stronger in the coming fight?

My money is on that last outcome unfortunately. I’m seeing Midjourney and its ilk being forced to hand over all image-generating AI to Disney in a settlement.

Mickey Mouse image generated by Craiyon
Mickey Mouse image generated by Craiyon

Still, I applaud Bourdages’ efforts. If we can’t dismantle capitalism, we can at least wreak havoc right back! The image above is my tiny contribution to the effort. I used Craiyon, a simple AI text-to-image generator that’s still free, to give Mickey a good Gwenn-Seemel-ing, since I’m completely resigned to my style being co-opted by machines.

Maybe this post made you think of something you want to share with me? Or perhaps you have a question about my art? I’d love to hear from you!


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