Shutterstock partnered with OpenAI to create AI-generated images using the DALL-E API.

Shutterstock has been providing stock images to organizations for years. Customers use the service to create brand campaigns and artwork. The business plan for Shutterstock has stayed the same: people upload images, the images get downloaded and both the artist and Shutterstock are compensated.

This year, Shutterstock is taking a major step by partnering with OpenAI to create AI-generated images using the DALL-E API. This will allow users to generate images based on text prompts. DALL-E is a deep learning image-generating service offered by OpenAI.

‘It could be illegal’

The partnership has caused concern. Some artists fear for their livelihood. AI systems capable of generating artwork could leave artists without a job. Shutterstock has responded to these concerns.

The AI generator does not create images from scratch, but rather sifts through millions of images and merges two or more to create an image. In other words, without the input of real artists, the generator cannot perform.

To ease the concerns of artists, Shutterstock has said it will be compensating all the artists whose work was used to develop and feed the AI models for image synthesis.

Some critics remain sceptical. “I think we’re watching some organizations, individuals, and companies being reckless”, said Craig Peters, CEO of Getty Images. “I think that’s dangerous. I don’t think it’s responsible. I think it could be illegal.”

Time will tell whether or the partnership becomes a success. With all the scepticism and questions, the role of AI in the future of stock imagery is all but certain.