Court Exhibit Names Artists Midjourney Scraped To Train Its AI; Includes Many Hugo Winners

Phil Foglio

Hugo-winning artist Phil Foglio told Bluesky readers today “They just dropped a list of All the artists that Midjourney admits to having scraped to train its A.I. engine. Are YOU on it? (We are) Do you have a good lawyer? (We do).”

Early in 2023 artists filed one of the many cases brought against developers of so-called generative artificial intelligence programs – which can create media based on text prompts – against Stability AI and Midjourney, with artists claiming the text-to-image generators only function by being trained on copyrighted artwork.

“Though Defendants like to describe their AI image products in lofty terms, the reality is grubbier and nastier,” the artists said. “AI image products are primarily valued as copyright-laundering devices, promising customers the benefits of art without the costs of artists.”

The plaintiffs listed thousands of artists whose styles Midjourney’s CEO claimed their service could emulate in an exhibit filed with the court on November 29, 2023. These names were publicly posted by the CEO on the Midjourney Discord:

260. In February 2022, near the release of the initial version of the Midjourney Image Product, Midjourney CEO David Holz posted messages on the Midjourney Discord server promoting the Midjourney Image Product’s ability to emulate existing artistic styles, in particular the styles of certain artists.

261. Over a series of Discord messages, Holz said “i think you’re all gonna get [your] mind blown by this style feature … we were very liberal in building out the dictionary … it has cores and punks and artist names … as much as we could dump in there … i should be clear it’s not just genres its also artist names … it’s mostly artist names … 4000 artist names.”43

262. Holz then said, “here is our style list”44 and posted a link to a spreadsheet on Google Docs called “Midjourney Style List.”45 One of the tabs on the spreadsheet was called “Artists” and listed over 4700 artist names. In other words, Holz published a list of artists who the Midjourney Image Product recognizes with the express purpose of these names being used by users and licensees of the Midjourney Image Product as terms in prompts. Holz’s comment, and the list, have remained available ever since.

The complete list is available online: Exhibit J: Midjourney Name List.

Nearly all Best Professional Artist Hugo winners are on the list: Rovina Cai, John Picacio, Charles Vess, Julie Dillon, Shaun Tan, Donato Giancola, Stephan Martinière, Jim Burns, Bob Eggleton, Michael Whelan, Don Maitz, Vincent DiFate, Rick Sternbach, Frank Kelly Freas, Leo and Diane Dillon, Jack Gaughan, John Schoenherr, Ed Emshwiller, Virgil Finlay.

So are many other famous genre artists including Chesley Bonestell, Richard M. Powers, Ray Harryhausen, and Frank Frazetta.

Artwork by Bill Rotsler.

And fans might be surprised how many fanzine artists are on the list. William Rotsler is there, as are these winners of the Rotsler Award named for him: Alexis A. Gilliland, Arthur (ATom) Thomson, Brad W. Foster, Dan Steffan, Steve Stiles, Teddy Harvia, and Tim Kirk.

Not all Rotsler Award winners names are on the list, though. (Sorry?) Missing are Alan White, Alison Scott, Dick “Ditmar” Jenssen, Grant Canfield, Harry Bell, Jeanne Gomoll, Jim Barker, Ken Fletcher, Kurt Erichsen, Marc Schirmeister, Ray Nelson, Ross Chamberlain, Sue Mason, Stu Shiffman, Taral Wayne, Terry Jeeves, and Ulrika O’Brien. I’m not sure how they will feel. They probably should be glad. However, I remember when Robert Silverberg visited eastern Germany after the Berlin Wall fell he was disappointed not to be more well-known because they hadn’t pirated much of his work there. You never know.

[Thanks to Anne Marble for the story.]

15 thoughts on “Court Exhibit Names Artists Midjourney Scraped To Train Its AI; Includes Many Hugo Winners

  1. Michael J. Walsh: So you’re an artist, too? (I admit I looked for my name on the list, even though I have produced maybe three or four pieces of art in my entire fanzine publishing career.)

  2. Oor Wombat is on that list. So are some extremely well-known artists – Bonestell! Saul Steinberg!
    These guys are in sh*t up to their chins.

  3. Over the years, I’ve run into a few people who justify their actions something like this:

    “I should really ask the person who owns this if they’re okay with my doing what I want to do with it. But it’s such a GREAT idea that I’m SURE they’d agree to it. So I actually DON’T NEED TO ASK, and I can begin right away.”

    (I’m particularly thinking back in our son’s younger days, when one of his friends stayed with us for several months, and who decided I would be grateful if he deleted the software programs I used regularly and replaced them with the ones he preferred.)

    That seems to have been the same mental process used by the MidJourney and other AI folks.

  4. Midjourney is a puppet of the Chinese government, banning pictures of Xi Jinping but not of any other world leader. Anything scummy they do doesn’t surprise me.

  5. A surprising name on that list is Neil Gaiman, who is famous, but isn’t exactly renowned for artistic skill…

  6. Soon Lee: “A surprising name on that list is Neil Gaiman, who is famous, but isn’t exactly renowned for artistic skill…”

    Comments elsewhere suggest that attributions on this list may confuse the writer and artist credits.

  7. I knew a guy who managed a Tower Records back in the Age of CD. They would send the record store all these promotional posters for various musicians and groups. The motive was hopefully getting free promotion out of it should the manager decide to put one up on a wall — mailing a copy of your poster to Tower Records was the pre-internet equivalent of posting it on a website. But instead of displaying the posters of the various acts, he had an artist come in maybe once a week, cut them up into pieces and make a general, music-themed collage out of the pieces that didn’t necessarily advertise any particular group, and then he displayed the collage. Not to belittle the problem of having your work misappropriated, I just wonder how this is going to play out in court.

  8. If an artist’s name is not on the list, that is not an assurance that Midjourney isn’t infringing on their work. The list of names posted by the Midjourney CEO probably is not fully accurate and complete. The AI is a black box. The only way to know for sure if it will create copies of an artist’s work is to try and see.

    Prompt engineering leads to prompt lawsuits.

  9. Pingback: Midjourney’s AI Model: A Step Forward in Tech or a Leap into Legal Trouble? |

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