ArtStation protests intensify after Epic says it won't ban AI images

ArtStation protest image
(Image credit: Alexander Nanitchkov)

Outcry from artists over AI-generated images on ArtStation is intensifying after the site's owner, Epic Games, issued a statement saying it won't ban AI images.

Concerns from artists over the legal and ethical implications of AI-created art, which has recently appeared in waves on the homepage of ArtStation in place of original work, swelled to a fever pitch on Tuesday, culminating in widespread complaints from artists across industries, including many who work in games. Specifically, protests spurred in large part by illustrator Nicholas Kole and costume designer Imogen Chayes saw artists spamming their ArtStation portfolios with an image decrying AI art in an effort to cover the homepage with the message. 

A screenshot shared by Kotaku shows ArtStation's homepage almost entirely consumed by the 'No AI art' badge, and screens we grabbed today reveal a slightly lighter, but still very prominent message from artists on the site. Keep in mind that these screenshots were taken several hours apart, which goes to show the protest is very much ongoing. People are even putting their own spin on the badge with high-def renditions. 

(Image credit: ArtStation)

(Image credit: ArtStation)

Epic has since issued a statement offering little in the way of a remedy for these concerns, and even prolonging if not igniting more protest.

"ArtStation’s content guidelines do not prohibit the use of AI in the process of artwork being posted," the statement reads. "ArtStation is a portfolio platform designed to elevate and celebrate originality powered by a community of artists. The works on your portfolio should be work that you created and we encourage you to be transparent in the process. Please only publish work that either you own or that you have permission to publish."

Epic won't outright take down or prohibit AI art, but it does go on to say that it's looking into measures to give artists "even more control" in how their work is used. It also suggests that AI which scrapes original content as learning material may be an "infringement on the rights of ArtStation users," so as part of its response, it's planning to add tags to allow or disallow art to be used to train commercial or non-commercial AI. 

The thing is, there's no such thing as original AI art; it's an oxymoron of the highest order. This stuff is created by analyzing the collective work of actual artists and generating a charitably described 'new image' directly based on those references and whatever descriptors are provided. 

AI is already scraping art from countless portfolios to make these kinds of images, and it seems doubtful that some new tags are going to suddenly stop the art bots that have been spreading like locusts for a while, especially when they're empowered by a presence on one of the most important art hubs on the internet. And thus far, Epic has issued only the vaguest of promises that it will someday take some form of action, which is what's gotten folks whose careers depend on original art – and being credited for it – understandably upset.

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Last year we published a list of the best video game art books out there, and it's still very much worth checking out (especially if you're looking for a Christmas present for a gamer.)

Jordan Gerblick

After scoring a degree in English from ASU, I worked as a copy editor while freelancing for places like SFX Magazine, Screen Rant, Game Revolution, and MMORPG on the side. Now, as GamesRadar's west coast Staff Writer, I'm responsible for managing the site's western regional executive branch, AKA my apartment, and writing about whatever horror game I'm too afraid to finish.