A New Contract for Artists in the Age of Generative AI

Eryk Salvaggio is a Research Advisor for Emerging Technology at the Siegel Family Endowment. Protestors outside of NETFLIX and Paramount Studios, Los Angeles, July 2023. Shutterstock/Josiah True Generative AI has followed a familiar technological hype cycle. It has promised a transformation of how artists work, while threatening to end the careers of other creatives, such as those working in stock photography and copywriting. It could further disrupt, if not eliminate, creatives dependent upon commissioned illustration and concept art, video game art, and even voice-over artists.  The underlying driver of this shift is hard to grapple with. It doesn’t derive from what these models produce, but what they produce from: vast streams of creative writing, photographs, and drawings shared online. The authors of these works find themselves grappling with the reality that they have co-created a massive corpus of training data for the very AI platforms that would undermine their professions. To many, it feels as if their creative fruits have been harvested and blended by an algorithmic juicing machine without warning or consent. Where labor power is strong, such as screenwriters and actors, strikes by creative professionals are centering these concerns. But this isn’t an option for independent, small-scale creatives who depend on the Internet to find clients and community.  The early promises of Creative Commons licensing made sense for the origins of the Internet. As an artist and writer, I was a stalwart advocate of Creative Commons. It was rooted in the flexibility of setting my terms for how…A New Contract for Artists in the Age of Generative AI