You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man & Other Myths

Taking a short break from finishing my edit of “Lucid Reality” to ruminate over some various things of interest.

I knew we shoulda taken that left turn at Albuquerque Creative Commons. Have fun.

A month back or so, the current premiere model site for Stable Diffusion, CivitAI has been letting users know that there are apparently licenses to these wonderful new models. I’m not against licenses. People should have say over their creations and all. The problem is that there are many people who couldn’t give two figs about licenses on the one hand. On the other hand, there’s a growing slice of opportunists coming into the industry. Where there’s money to be had and suckers to be fleeced, so cometh the scammers to rip off the unsuspecting.

What’s been happening is that models that once were free and open source are suddenly gaining new “licenses” after the fact. The real problem is that some of these licenses claim that they control any derivative models that come from their work (more about that later) and decide whether or not you can use any creations you made for commercial use.

To me this has many problems on the face, and that’s why I used the term “Scammers”. So… from what I understand thus far is that all unmodified output you create from Stable Diffusion counts as Creative Commons. Doesn’t matter what it’s used for, it’s ostensibly the same as Public Domain. Commercial and personal use, modification or sale of it is allowed by anyone. (Hold yer horses there, Tex. Don’t be trying to sell other people’s stuff yet). This comes, from the way I understand it (and I’m not offering legal advice) but if you then MODIFY what you’ve created to a certain degree, then you can claim it as your work.

Now that I’ve become fluent enough in using Stable Diffusion, I’ve been seeing more and more book covers being done by authors using AI art programs. It gets very easy to pick out the style the same way you can pick out CGI when you’re aware of the tools and techniques. Like back in the 80’s when as a kid I desperately wanted a synthesizer, I could tell you if it was a Roland, Ensoniq, Korg, Moog, Yamaha or Fairlight that made the sound because each manufacturer’s product had a signature way of processing that created it. Face it, Yamaha’s DX7’s FM Synthesis “Electric Piano” was one of the most iconic sounds for synths for almost 20 years. The same thing is starting to happen with different AI art software. You can see very clearly who’s using Midjourney, Disco Diffusion, Dalle-2 and Stable Diffusion models.

Why I bring this up is because a lot of these images are also clearly not photobashed, which would make them unique and therefore able to be copyrighted. For those who don’t know what photobashing is, it’s when you take multiple images into Photoshop or similar software and make a new image of them in layers. I did that with my first cover, but used Stable Diffusion to help create several of my raw resources. That means the cover for “Dreams Within Dreams” although is technically AI art, it’s a copyrightable image because I also made it heavily out of filters and effects found in photoshop and assembled the bits from creative commons clip art that I generated myself just like if I went out and took pictures.

A great example of the type of image I’m talking about that could be a great cover if fine tuned with other software. Creative Commons

Anyway… Authors, come on. Up your game when making AI art covers. You have to do more than render and upscale an image. Heck, some of you need to learn inpainting and outpainting to get rid of bad faces, eyes, cursed hands, blurry “what the?!” details in the background. Doing that ALSO customizes the image making it unique. If you don’t have time to learn this, please hire someone to do it for you. AI art has made the ability to create these cover images for you so much faster, but still, if you don’t have the talent or the time… hire an artist to get you there.

Back to my original point. I’m very high on the “Jingle Jingle Shiny” scale right now. Apparently there’s a rapidly growing set of “model creators” out there who are thinking “Hey, I want to make money off my creations.” The problem is they want to make money off of creations they made originally free, and are going back and adding licenses different from what they originally had, then some are even going so far as asking the community to rat out anyone selling work “obviously done” on their models. Now why would you do that unless you intended to sue for fun and profit? Don’t think there aren’t people who won’t.

I got yer Jingle Jingle Shiny right here. Creative Commons.

That meant, for me at least, going back in and deleting all models that had these new license restrictions. It’s not that they actually DO have the legal right to sue, as that’s not been established either, but lawfare and “suing for settlements” is big business in the US. Even if you are dinged for a $10k judgment, that’s still a big issue if you don’t have the resources to begin with. It’s like when RIAA went after little old grandmothers because their honey-boy grandson downloaded a thousand songs off of Napster and they went after the computer owner for a few million bucks. (yes stuff like that happened if you don’t remember. RIAA won some of those cases too, and settled out of court with others.)

The point is that the legal standing of selling or licensing a model is very dubious right now, since they are:

  • A: Using a collection of other people’s artwork scraped for free into the LIAON dataset.
  • B: Using models that search that data they didn’t make either who’s artistic product is considered Creative Commons.
  • C: Using artwork and photographs (possibly legally, possibly not) to make their works.
  • D: Creating supplemental license agreements with different terms that go contrary to the public free download site’s licenses.
  • E: Claiming ownership, and thereby control over derivatives created by including their model as part of the new product.
  • F: Claiming ownership of designers entire back catalogs of work in what could be considered shady deals (similar to what skeezy publishers do to unaware authors with book rights)

So as you can bet, I have quite the jaundiced eye to the practice. It’s also been getting the community into quite an uproar out there. Some are trying to encouraging people to get their downvotes and ratios ready to harm these developers. Many of whom don’t even realize what they’ve done.

Know your rights or be prepared to fight. Creative Commons

At first when I saw this happening I was (understandably) pissed off. Models and images I had created had to be deleted. I’m not going to chance someone coming after me with some quarter assed lawsuit to just squeeze a few grand out of me or steal the rights to my IPs. I also let the creator know in the form of 2 star reviews and a comment it was downgraded because of their policy of banning commercial use after the fact of images made using their model. One of them threw a fit and started screaming for people to downvote me and report me for harassment. Nothing says hypocrisy and narcissism stronger than that. The other, changed his mind and I bounced that guy’s review back up to 5 stars as promised. It also helped that other people basically told him to stick his restrictions someplace dark and moist.

In the end, it looked like the guy who lost his mind off of suffering a low rating changed his mind. But it turned out to either be another temporary change or something glitched on the site. I wrote up a new 5 star review, with commentary explaining what went on. Then the site glitched (CivitAI is really heavily used so it goes down frequently with the load) and the restrictions came back. Just before I was ready to post a new explanation for the returned 2 star review I remembered something I got off a Raz0rfist rant and it clicked for me. (If you don’t watch his rants on pop culture and politics, you are missing some heavy metal epic-ness.) The opposite of love is not hate. It’s apathy. The same is true for hate. Love and hate require emotional passion. The opposite of strong emotion is no emotion.

Don’t lose your head. It’s not all about you. Creative Commons

It had become clear to me that this punk wasn’t worth it. An obvious emotionally immature person who couldn’t hack honest criticism was deriving drama and attention from my interaction, and sympathy. The only way to deny this to someone who clearly wasn’t worth my time was to delete the review, let him have one less and filter him out from all future models. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Yes this means his rating went up, and he may sucker other people in, but let’s face it, that’s not my problem.

It’s sad, I could have been a big fan of that guy’s work. But that’s also what happens to me if someone reads my book and doesn’t like it. Rarely does someone trash me. They just ignore me, unless they feel cheated. THEN I get trashed. So far it hasn’t happened outside of an “I’m not the target audience” sort of low star review. But at least I’m mature enough to accept that.

Consider this a warning to those of you about to dip your toe in the AI art pond. There are snapping turtles out there now and if you’re not careful, you’re gonna get bit because scammers have discovered there’s money out there to be taken off the unaware.

And that’s another thing, just like those who charge to access Stable Diffusion, stop that. Don’t pay for something that’s free! Don’t get ripped off. Watch your model licenses and assume they hold true and are actionable even if later it turns out they aren’t. Just be safe.

So till next time, Via con Dios!