AI-Generated Art Triggers Furious Backlash From Japanese Anime Community
On October 3, famous South Korean illustrator Kim Jung Gi died suddenly at the age of 47. He was appreciated for his innovative style in ink and brush. manhwaor the art of Korean comics, and famous for captivating audiences by live drawing huge and intricate scenes from memory.
A few days later, a former French game developer, known online as 5you, incorporated Jung Gi’s work into an AI model. He shared the model on Twitter as a tribute to the artist, allowing any user to create Jung Gi-style art with a simple text prompt. The artwork showed dystopian battlefields and bustling food markets – eerily precise in style and, aside from a few telltale distortions, as detailed as Jung Gi’s own creations.
The response was pure disdain. “Kim Jung Gi left us less than [a week ago] and the AI brothers are already “replicating” his style and asking for credit. Vultures and spineless, talentless losers,” read a viral message from comic book writer Dave Scheidt on Twitter. “Artists are not just a “style”. They are not products. He is a breathing and experimenting person. read another by designer Kori Michele Handwerker.
Far from being a tribute, many saw the AI generator as a theft of Jung Gi’s work. 5You told me that he received death threats from Jung Gi devotees and illustrators, and asked to be referenced by his screen name online for security reasons.
Generative AI may have been dubbed the “new craze” of Silicon Valley, but beyond the valley, hostility and skepticism are already growing among an unexpected user base: anime artists and manga. In recent weeks, a series of controversies over AI-generated art – mostly in Japan, but also in South Korea – has prompted industry figures and fans to speak out against the technology, as well as the artists behind it. are using it.
While there is a long-established culture of creating fan art from copyrighted manga and anime, many draw a line in the sand where AI creates similar work. I spoke to generative AI companies, artists, and legal experts, who saw this backlash as rooted in the intense loyalty of anime and manga circles — and, in Japan, the lenient laws on copyright and data scraping. The rise of these models not only blurs the lines around ownership and responsibility, but is already fueling panic that artists will lose their livelihoods.
“I think they’re afraid to train for something they can never live off of because they’re going to be replaced by AI,” you told me.
One of the catalysts is Stable Diffusion, a competitor to the IA art model Dall-E, which hit the market on August 22. Stability AI is open-source, which means that unlike Dall-E, engineers can train the model on any image dataset to produce almost any style of art they desire – none beta invitation or subscription is required. 5You, for example, extracted the illustrations of Jung Gi from Google Images without the authorization of the artist or the publishers, then you introduced them into the service of Stable Diffusion.
In mid-October, Stability AI, the company behind Stable Diffusion, raised $101 million at a valuation of $1 billion. Seeking a slice of this market, AI startups are relying on Stable Diffusion’s open-source code to launch more specialized and refined generators, including several aimed at anime and manga art. .
Japanese AI startup Radius5 was one of the first companies to strike a chord when, in August, it launched an art-generating beta called Mimic that targeted anime-style creators. Artists could upload their own work and customize the AI to produce images in their own illustration style; the company recruited five anime artists as test cases for the pilot.
Almost immediately, on Mimic’s launch day, Radius5 issued a statement that artists were the target of abuse on social media. “Please refrain from criticizing or slandering the creators,” company CEO Daisuke Urushihara implored Twitter’s swarm of critics. Illustrators decried the serviceclaiming that Mimic would depreciate the art form and be used to recreate artists’ work without their permission.
And they were partly right. Just hours after the declaration, Radius5 froze the beta indefinitely because users were downloading the work of other artists. Even though this violated Mimic’s terms of service, no restrictions were set to prevent it. The phrase “AI学習禁止” (“No AI Learning”) has lit up Japanese Twitter.
A similar storm has gathered around AI storytelling company NovelAI, which launched an image generator on October 3; Rumors on Twitter quickly swirled that he was simply ripping human-drawn artwork from the internet. Virginia Hilton, community manager for NovelAI, told me she thinks the outrage has to do with how well the AI can mimic anime styles.
“I think a lot of Japanese people would consider [anime] art a kind of export,” she said. “Finding the capabilities of the [NovelAI] model, and the improvement over Stable Diffusion and Dall-E – it can be scary. The company also had to interrupt the service for emergency maintenance. Its infrastructure buckled following a spike in traffic, mostly from Japan and South Korea, and a hacking incident. The team published a blog post in English and Japanese to explain how it all works, while working to hire friends to translate their Twitter and Discord posts.
The ripple effect continues. A Japanese artist was forced to screenshots of tweets showing layers of her illustration software to counter accusations that she was secretly using AI. Two of the most famous VTuber bands in the country demand millions of social media followers to stop using AI in their fan art, citing copyright issues if their official accounts repost the work. Pixiv, the Japanese online artist community, has announced that it will launch tags to filter out AI-generated work in its search function and popularity ranking.
Indeed, manga and anime act as an early testing ground for ethics and copyright liability related to AI art. The industry has long allowed the reproduction of copyrighted characters by doujinshi (posts created by fans), in part to increase the popularity of original posts. Even the late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe once weighed in on the unlicensed industry, saying it should be protected from litigation as a form of travesty.
Apart from doujinshi, Japanese law is generally harsh on copyright infringement. Even a user who simply retweets or reposts an image that violates copyright may be subject to legal action. But with AI-generated art, legal issues only arise if the output is exactly the same or very close to the images the model is trained on.
“If the images generated are identical… then the publication [those images] may infringe copyright,” Taichi Kakinuma, an AI partner at law firm Storia and a member of the Ministry of Economy’s committee on contract guidelines for AI and data, told me. . It’s a risk with Mimic and similar generators built to imitate an artist. “Such [a result] could be generated if formed only with images from a particular author,” Kakinuma said.
But successful lawsuits against AI firms are unlikely, said Kazuyasu Shiraishi, a partner at Tokyo-headquartered law firm TMI Associates. In 2018, the National Diet, Japan’s legislative body, amended the national copyright law to allow machine learning models to retrieve copyrighted data from the Internet without permission, which offers a liability shield for services like NovelAI.
Whether the images are sold for profit or not is largely irrelevant to copyright infringement cases in Japanese courts, Shiraishi said. But for many working artists, it’s a real fear.
Haruka Fukui, a Tokyo-based artist who creates queer romantic anime and manga, admits that AI technology is set to transform the industry for illustrators like her, despite recent protests. “There are fears that the demand for illustrations will decrease and the requests will disappear,” she said. “Advancements in technology have both the benefits of lower costs and the fear of fewer jobs.”
Fukui considered using the AI herself as an assistive tool, but was uncomfortable when asked if she would give her blessing to the AI-generated art. help with his work.
“I have no intention of considering legal action for personal use,” she said. “[But] I would consider legal action if I made my opinion known on the matter and if any money was generated,” she added. “If the artist rejects it, it must cease to be used.”
But the case of Kim Jung Gi shows that artists may not be there to give their blessing. “You can’t express your intentions after death,” admits Fukui. “But if only you could ask for the thoughts of the family.”