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The Cultural Observatory of the Universitat de València analyses the limits of AI in artistic creation

  • UV General Foundation
  • June 11th, 2024
From left to right: Marelisa Blanco, Luis Demano and Ainara LeGardon.
From left to right: Marelisa Blanco, Luis Demano and Ainara LeGardon.

The Cultural Observatory of the Universitat de València is organising a debate on the subject of ‘Prior consent, credit and compensation’ to analyse the keys to a responsible use of generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) in artistic creation, with three artists and experts on intellectual property. The event will take place in the Palminero Room of the Faculty of Geography and History of the UV (28, Blasco Ibáñez Avenue) on Wednesday, 12 June at 6pm.

Admission is free (registration required via the Cultural Observatory website).

The invasion of generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) in digital content is an unavoidable reality that has reached the cultural sector. Artists denounce the irresponsible use of this tool, which feeds on original works without giving authors any credit.

The Cultural Observatory of the Universitat de València is concerned about this and other issues related to the impact of AI on artistic creation. They have therefore decided to organise a debate with artists and experts on intellectual property.

The Cultural Observatory UV, led by UV Professor Raúl Abeledo will host a participatory debate with three experts on the new and complex panorama of artistic creation and its legal and professional vulnerability.

Ainara LeGardon is a musician, artist and specialist in intellectual property, who will give a presentation on the subject. The presentation will be followed by a panel discussion with LeGardon, Merelisa Blanco, lawyer and illustrator, and Luis Demano, Valencian illustrator and graphic designer, who will also moderate the debate.

The first question was about the impact of AI on artistic creation and dissemination, the risks for the artist’s work and for society, the legal protection of the creative process, and the resulting work. Is the solution to adapt or to die? These were the answers given by the speakers:

Apocalyptic or integrated?
Marelisa Blanco (MB): There is no right answer. As a technology, AI is really interesting. Nevertheless, there are many drawbacks: it is not enough to adapt in order not to die, first of all we are facing a situation of copyright infringement of thousands of authors. This has led to many lawsuits in the US and the UK.

Luis Demano (LD): Generative AI aims to extract value, to benefit its shareholders by covering the whole market. And if they have to harm some specific sectors or society as a whole to achieve their goals, they will do so. The cultural sector is the most affected, because it is very insecure and divided, since it represents a weakness in a relationship power scheme in the capitalist market context. This is the main key and the starting point of the AI massive invasion issue.

How harmful can AI be to artistic creation?
MB: From a social point of view, it means the loss of jobs and greater insecurity due to a tendency to lower salaries, as companies believe that AI will ‘lighten the workload’. However, translation and art have a component of understanding and reflection that an AI model cannot emulate. Turning art or culture into mere entertainment products can be detrimental to our heritage. It is also important to remember that art helps to develop critical thinking and cognitive skills, which are important for intellectual development.

LD: As Marelisa says, it is a question of devaluating of the creative process by automating it. This is why companies have created the false discourse of democratising art, which is supposed to create a general perception that skills and prior knowledge are unnecessary to develop online content. In this way, the labour rights of the artistic sector are seen as privileges, like copyright.

Ainara LeGardon (AL): I would like to add to the very well expressed points of Marelisa and Luis that another issue is the ‘flattening’ of culture and development, and that as a society we have reached a higher ‘tolerance for mediocrity’. The essay Mundofiltro. How algorithms have flattened culture is a good example of these ideas.

Are there any positive aspects?
MB: If intellectual property and copyrights are respected, it would be very interesting on an artistic level. For example, some artists buy models in order to feed them with their own drawings and create works or finish them more easily. The problem lies in the model’s training.

LD: It is positive as a real tool at the service of collective interests and not as a parasitic technology at the service of private interests, due to its low energy consumption in the context of the climate crisis.

AL: Exactly. In order to understand why it is not a neutral technology, it is necessary know how the models are made. These models have been developed on the basis of a massive vulnerability of intellectual property, labour and environmental rights, among others.

What is the impact of AI on artistic creation and its distribution?
MB: On the negative side, for artists, there is the loss of reputation, the possibility of plagiarism or the misappropriation of personality or artistic style, all of which are intellectual property vulnerabilities. On the other hand, and regarding distribution, we could add that it is almost impossible to find original material. From a ‘positive’ point of view? It could save time for creators and, according to the news, help industries make more money by increasing efficiency. But this does not always translate into improvements for authors.

What about its consequences? Will it only affect the artists and their work or does is there a risk for society?
MB: The consequences range from impoverishment and increased job insecurity in an already insecure field to a cultural loss, since the interesting part of art is the points of view it offers, the thoughts behind or the reflection on the work. We believe that the AIs need human material to create, they have no innovative skills and are only based on previous works.

Is legal intervention possible to regulate the use of AI? There are guidelines for good practices in the Ministry of Culture...
MB Yes. In theory, the Intellectual Property Act expects to limit data mining, but it is limited to scientific research, and artists have the right to object to their works being used to train AI (which is the most problematic part of AI). The Law on Books and many others discuss the promotion and support of authors, so human creation is supposed to prevail over synthetic creation. However, public administrations are more willing to use generative artificial intelligence and even give economic awards to people who use these tools and intrude in a rather complicated sector.

LD: Most of the hopes for the cultural sector are currently pinned on the recently adopted European AI Law, which is the first comprehensive law in the world. However, we hope that in the future we will be able to go deeper and build on the positive points.

AL: As far as the Ministry’s guidelines are concerned, it is a 2-page document that does not go into depth. It is simply not enough.

But the European regulation will only apply in two years’ time, won’t that be too late?
ML: Yes, it would be late and would run the risk of being obsolete by the time it comes into force. No one will be able to compensate the authors, and the existing legal instruments are quite simple.

If the legal framework does not defend the author and their work, what will happen? Is AI the beginning of the end of creative freedom?
ML: It would be the end of the possibility to work for a living with dignity, more than the end of creation, because we artists will always write, draw and play again, we cannot help it.

What if, very apocalyptically, creation stops, would there be a moment when not even AI can replace the creator because there are no more original artistic works?
ML: That is right. It would be the same all the time.

In your field, is it possible to adapt to the AI invasion?
ML: In the legal field looks that way because it is used to write documents. Nevertheless, our work would be more similar to post-editing or to analyse the case and ask AI to write it very specifically and then review it.

LD: The key is to ask the question the other way round. Would we be able to get the interests of private AI companies to adapt to the real professional and life needs? Or would we still be attached to the artificial needs that AI companies create. limiting our social role to simple consumers of their product?

AL: I have nothing to add. I agree with everything that Marelisa and Luis have said.