An unpopular opinion on Adobe, your photos and training AI’s

Jan 9, 2023

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

An unpopular opinion on Adobe, your photos and training AI’s

Jan 9, 2023

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

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adobe training its AI algorithms

Here at the photography blogosphere, a few blogs picked up on a tweet from Krita@mastodon.art calling Adobe out for having a policy that allows them to use users’ photos stored on the cloud to train its AI systems.

Since then, Adobe has released a statement to Peta Pixel telling that they do not use users’ data for Experimental Generative AI features.

I am not an attorney, but I can see at least two reservations here with the words “Experimental” and “Generative”. But let’s put this aside. This blog is not about if Adobe is using your photos for AI-training purposes or not. It’s about whether it is OK for Adobe (or any other company for that matter) to use your content, specifically your photos, to train its AI algorithms.

[I am taking a side tour here to acknowledge that AI training is not the only issue here. DPReview raises some very valid privacy concerns in line with the same policy, and I am eager to see the update with Adobe’s response]

This becomes an even more serious issue when we consider copyright law. In a nutshell, here is the question: If an AI was trained on your images, do you own any copyrights in the final image generated by that AI?

I am not only saying it is ok to train AI’s with everyone’s public photos. I am saying that we have been doing it for years. Willingly and enthusiastically. There is simply no other way.

There is a great piece from Seth Godin that illustrates this point perfectly. Godin says that what AIs are doing now is exactly what art students have been doing for centuries. Only that the AIs are doing it faster, cheaper, and in a more accessible way:

… some creators are up in arms. They say that if an AI is trained on their photographs, their architectural designs or their cartoons, it’s a form of theft…

This doesn’t hold up.

If an art student studies all of Picasso’s 10,000 paintings and then creates a new painting that is clearly based on them, we call this the advancement of culture. The same is true if a writer uses a word that was coined by Shakespeare, or if a graffitist is clearly inspired by Shepard Fairey.

That’s how culture evolves. Taking an idea isn’t theft. Taking an idea is an oxymoron. Ideas belong to all of us.

We couldn’t and wouldn’t have it any other way. There’s no way to bake a cake, drive a car or write a sentence without using what came before. – Seth Godin

To the point, computers have been doing some tasks faster and better than humans for a while now. We never complain that a computer can do complex spreadsheets in a heartbeat. We also train all our students with the works of the great ones, be they Picasso, Da Vinci, Leonhard Euler, Charles Dickens, and George Orwell (pick your field and taste).

The fact that we can now apply Learning From the Masters with Computer Efficiency only changes time scales, not anything else.

And Seth Godin concludes with a statement that resonates well with me:

The only thing that allows creators to create is the work that came before. When we create, we add to that work so that others can do the same

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Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

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6 responses to “An unpopular opinion on Adobe, your photos and training AI’s”

  1. Tunes Firwood Avatar
    Tunes Firwood

    Photos stored on Adobe’s systems are not, in general, public. The argument that they are fair game is spurious.

  2. Derek Smallwood Avatar
    Derek Smallwood

    Maybe someone should charge Adobe a monthly subscription fee.

  3. Sherri Vallie Avatar
    Sherri Vallie

    NO

  4. Bart Ros Fotografie - Fotograaf Deventer & Overijssel Avatar
    Bart Ros Fotografie – Fotograaf Deventer & Overijssel

    When you make a Milkshake does the milk farmer have a copyright on your recipe?

    Just don’t store anything on adobe servers. Problem solved really. Personally I dont care too much. AI training serves a purpose for me on working faster hence make more money or have more time with my family. In the end putting images on Unsplash, or online or even getting it used in AI machine learning, doesnt mean you dont have a copyright and can still make money of your work. I find these back and forth reductive and pedantic. People should just go out and make great images instead.

  5. Bart Ros Fotografie - Fotograaf Deventer & Overijssel Avatar
    Bart Ros Fotografie – Fotograaf Deventer & Overijssel

    Tunes Firwood dont store anything on their servers. Problem solved really. Personally I dont care too much. AI training serves a purpose for me on working faster hence make more money or have more time with my family. In the end putting images on Unsplash, or online or even getting it used in AI machine learning, doesnt mean you dont have a copyright and can still make money of your work. I find these back and forth reductive and pedantic. People should just go out and make great images instead.

  6. Tunes Firwood Avatar
    Tunes Firwood

    Bart Ros Fotografie – Fotograaf Deventer & Overijssel So if you don’t want your photos stolen by Adobe, don’t trust their contracts?

    That’s pretty standard victim-blaming right there.