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Lensa's Popularity Provokes Discussions on Ethics of AI-Generated Art

Artists believe that the app's "Magic Avatars" feature is no other than a form of art theft.

In the wake of the incredible popularity of Prisma Labs' Lensa, an app that uses AI to transform people's photos into digital avatars, the artist community once again turned to discussions about the ethical side of producing AI-generated images.

While the general public is enjoying Lensa and posting myriads of images generated by the app, artists' stances on it are not that lightheaded as they believe that the app's "Magic Avatars" feature is no other than a form of art theft as Lensa AI model, as well as many similar models, have been trained using other people's original work. 

Some artists, like Karla Ortiz for example, assume that Lensa and similar companies think that they're "bringing art to the masses," while in fact, they're bringing "forgery, art theft [and] copying to the masses."

Ortiz, who's worked as a concept artist on films like Jurassic World and a number of Marvel movies, told NBC News that she has learned that her artworks were used to train Lensa AI model and said that when she realized it, it felt like "violation of identity."

Other artists, like Riot Games' storyboard artist Jon Lam, also worry that AI tools can replace artists at their jobs due to their speed and low cost.

However, Prisma Labs apparently believes that the latter concern is just an unfounded fear. The company recently posted a lengthy Twitter thread where it shared its thoughts on the future of digital art and concerns about AI art replacing art by actual artists.

"As cinema didn’t kill theater and accounting software hasn’t eradicated the profession, AI won’t replace artists but can become a great assisting tool," the company wrote. "We also believe that the growing accessibility of AI-powered tools would only make man-made art in its creative excellence more valued and appreciated, since any industrialization brings more value to handcrafted works."

Speaking to NBC News, Prisma Labs CEO Andrey Usoltsev also added that he believes AI-powered tools are likely to become increasingly more widespread in the future and that the company would like to "be a part of this ongoing conversation and steer the use of such technology in a safe and ethical way."

Neither Prisma Labs' app nor Usoltsev, however, addressed concerns regarding the ethical side of using artists' works for AI training without the creators' consent. 

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