Lensa, the popular photo editing app that launched in 2018, went viral on social media last month after releasing its “magic avatars” feature to the public.

Users can submit images of themselves to the app, and the neural network can randomly generate portraits of those photos in a variety of digital art styles. Social media has been flooded with Lensa AI portraits, and the app has become so popular that it reached number one in the App Store’s “Photo & Video” category. The release of AI art programs has generated discussion, however, over the ethics of creating images using other people’s original artwork and digital designs.

To start, what is AI art exactly?

AI (Artificial Intelligence) art is artwork created by algorithms and prompts to create randomly generated images, based on keywords and data that are constantly being submitted to the program. For example, if you type in “tree by a cliff in the style of Bob Ross” then randomly generated design compositions will pop up in his style. Users can regenerate images until they can decide on which one they like best. The common problem that is being seen by users and other artists is that an AI model can develop digital images that existing artists would “never make” and could hinder their brand image. Accusations are being made by countless artists that didn’t consent to the use of their artwork for AI training purposes. People have also complained about the sexualization of images being generated, along with people’s private images turning up in the algorithm for anyone in the world to use that they didn’t consent to.

“We’re learning that even if you’re using it for your inspiration, you’re still training it with other people’s data,” said Jon Lam, a storyboard artist at Riot Games. “Anytime people use it more, this thing just keeps learning. Anytime anyone uses it, it just gets worse and worse for everybody,”

he said. Considering the service field of both freelance designers and digital design/graphic design companies, the usage of unsolicited artwork could either assist them or cause issues. The positive aspect of AI generated artwork in the field of graphic design is that it can offer alternative concepts and ideas to work off and personalize. The easy access of AI generated designs also affects the business graphic artists get and the ability to market their work and gain recognition for designs they’ve produced in a familiar sense. The sphere of this line of work has changed completely and constantly calls for updating and optimizing the approach to successfully brand yourself as a digital artist or graphic designer.

Last month, the San Francisco Ballet promoted its annual December production of The Nutcracker, by posting an AI-generated poster of a nutcracker to its Instagram page. The uproar over the post shows how AI-generated visuals are stirring controversy in the art world (Cruz Mayeda, People Are Not Happy). Another example happened in September, Jason M. Allen entered a digital art contest and won by submitting a piece he created using Midjourney, another AI art program. It was one of the first A.I.-generated pieces to win, and it set off a fierce backlash from artists who accused him of cheating and not putting in nearly the effort for it to be considered worthy of first place. How on earth could this AI-generated piece compare against artists who spent hours of their time creating their original artwork? Allen only had to type a few words and have them automatically generated for him. He won the digital art contest despite him not creating it. (Roose, An A.i.-Generated).

There are a lot of changes and legal issues that need to be addressed regarding AI, and our laws are always unfortunately a step behind the advancement of our growing technologies. But not all technologies create these types of problems. Digital art had some controversy when it was being developed, however, people used the tools to create unique pieces without ripping off other artists’ work. It is simply a different medium that is respected and appreciated in today’s society. With AI Art, however, people’s preexisting ideas are being taken and used without their consent. Advocate for our artists and people associated with the art community. We as artists need as much support as possible and we have to try to maintain our humanity in our art.