US Artists Sue Google for Copyright Infringement

In a California federal court, Google is facing a fresh copyright lawsuit from several visual artists. They claim that Google’s Alphabet subsidiary unlawfully utilized their work in its new tab unit to train Imagen, its AI-driven image generator. 

Photographer Jingna Zhang and cartoonists Sarah Andersen, Hope Larson, and Jessica Fink spearhead the proposed class action, asserting that Google is accountable for misappropriating “billions” of copyrighted images, including theirs, to instruct Imagen on responding to human text prompts.

The lawsuit underscores a growing concern over using copyrighted materials in AI training. As technology evolves, the legal landscape surrounding intellectual property rights continues to be tested. This case could potentially set precedents for the responsible usage of copyrighted content in AI development, navigating the delicate balance between innovation and respecting creators’ rights.

This lawsuit is one of several potential landmark cases brought by copyright owners against tech companies, including Microsoft, OpenAI, and Meta, regarding the data used to train their generative AI systems.

Read More: Google Halts Gemini to Generate Images After Historical Errors

On Monday, Google spokesperson Jose Castaneda said, “Our AI models are trained primarily on publicly available information on the internet. American law has long supported using public information in new and beneficial ways, and we will refute these claims in court.”

In a statement, the attorneys for the artists, Joseph Saveri and Matthew Butterick, said that this case exemplifies “another instance of a multi-trillion-dollar tech company choosing to train a commercial AI product on the copyrighted works of others without consent, credit, or compensation.” 

Additionally, Zhang and Andersen are engaged in a parallel ongoing lawsuit against Stability AI, Midjourney, and others, alleging the unauthorized use of their work to train AI image generators. Notably, the lawsuit filed on Friday revealed that Google employed a dataset identical to the one used by Stability and Midjourney to train their systems for Imagen.

The artists requested the court to grant unspecified monetary damages and to issue an order compelling Google to destroy its copies of their work.

The case is Zhang v. Google LLC, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, No. 5:24-cv-02531.