On October 3, renowned South Korean artist Kim Jung Gi died unexpectedly at the age of 47. He is beloved for his innovative ink and brushwork style. Manhwaor Korean comic-book art, and is known for captivating audiences by drawing huge, intricate scenes live from memory.
A few days later, a former French game developer known online as 5you presented Jung Gi’s work as an AI model. He is The model shared on Twitter As a tribute to the artist, it allows any user to create Jung Gi-style art with a simple text prompt. The artworks show dystopian battlefields and bustling food markets – very accurate in style and some are described as Jung Gi’s own creations, rather than warping the tell tale.
The response was pure disgust. “Kim Jung Gi has left us [a week ago] And AI bros are already ‘copying’ his style and demanding credit. Vultures and spineless, talentless losers” Read a viral post From comic-book writer Dave Scheidt on Twitter. “Artists are not just a ‘style’. They are not a product. They are a breathing, experiencing person.” I read another one From cartoonist Cory Mitchell Handwerker.
Far from being a tribute, many thought the AI generator was stolen from Jung Gi’s body of work. 5 You told me he got death threats from Jung Gi loyalists and painters and asked him to refer to his online pseudonym for safety.
Productive AI may be called Silicon Valley’s “new craze,” but beyond the Valley, hostility and skepticism are already growing among an unexpected user base: anime and manga artists. In recent weeks, a series of controversies over AI-generated art — mainly in Japan, but also in South Korea — have prompted condemnation from artists who use the technology, as well as industry figures and fans.
While the culture of creating fan art from copyrighted manga and anime has long been established, many are drawing a line in the sand where AI creates such artwork. I spoke to productive AI companies, artists, and legal experts who saw this backlash as a source of fierce loyalty in anime and manga circles — and Japan’s lax laws on copyright and data scraping. The rise of these models is not only blurring the lines around ownership and responsibility, but is already fueling fears that artists will lose their livelihoods.
“I think they’re afraid they’re going to survive forever because they’re going to be replaced by AI,” 5 You told me.
One of the catalysts is Stable Diffusion, a competitor to Dall-E, an AI art model that hit the market on August 22. Stability AI is open-source, meaning, unlike Dall-E, engineers can train any model. Image Data is set to delete any style of art they want – no beta invite or membership required. 5 You have, for example, taken illustrations of Jung Gi from Google Images without permission from the artist or publishers and then provided them on the Stable Diffusion service.
In mid-October, Stability AI, the company behind Stable Diffusion, raised $101 million at a $1 billion valuation. Looking for a cut into this market, AI startups are building on Stable Diffusion’s open-source code to launch more specialized and refined generators, many of which are primed for anime and manga art.
Japanese AI startup Radius5 was one of the first companies to strike a nerve in August when it launched an art-generation beta called Mimic aimed at anime-style creators. Artists can upload their own work and customize the AI to create images in their own illustration style; The company recruited five anime artists as test cases for the pilot.
Almost immediately, on Mimic launch day, Radius5 issued a statement Artists are being abused on social media. “Please refrain from criticizing or bashing the creators,” the company’s CEO, Daisuke Urushihara, pleaded with a group of Twitter critics. Painters He deposed that The serviceMimic is said to cheapen the art form and be used to recreate artists’ work without their permission.
And they are partially right. A few hours after the announcement, Radius5 The beta has been frozen indefinitely Because users are uploading the work of other artists. Although this violates Mimic’s terms of service, there are no restrictions built in to prevent this. The phrase “AI学习禁止” (“No AI learning”) has lit up Japanese Twitter.
A similar storm is brewing around NovelAI, a storytelling AI company that launched an image generator on October 3; Twitter rumors quickly spread that it was simply ripping off human-drawn illustrations from the Internet. Virginia Hilton, NovelAI’s community manager, told me she thinks the outrage has to do with how accurately the AI can mimic anime styles.
“I think a lot of Japanese people take that into account [anime] Art is a kind of export,” she says. “Discovering the potential of [NovelAI] Model, and Stable Diffusion, and an improvement over Doll-E – it’s scary. The company also had to pause service for emergency maintenance. Its infrastructure was hit by a surge in traffic from Japan and South Korea and a hacking incident. While scrambling to hire friends to translate their Twitter and Discord posts, the team published a blog post in English and Japanese to explain how it works.
The ripple effect continues. A Japanese artist was responsible Tweet screenshots She is showing layers of illustration software to counter accusations that she is secretly using AI. Two of the most popular VTuber bands in the country Requested Millions of social media followers stop using AI in their fan art, citing copyright concerns if their official accounts republish the work. Pixiv, a Japanese online artists’ community, has announced that it will launch tags to filter AI-generated work in its search feature and in its popularity rankings.
As a result, manga and anime are serving as an early testing ground for AI art-related ethics and copyright liability. The industry has long allowed the reproduction of copyrighted characters Doujinshi (fan-made publications), partly to increase the popularity of the original publications. Even the late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe once weighed in on the unlicensed industry, arguing that it should be protected from litigation as a form of irony.
Outside Doujinshi, Japanese law on copyright infringements is generally strict. A user who retweets or reposts an image that infringes copyright may also be subject to legal action. But with AI-generated art, legal issues only arise if the output is exactly the same or very close to the images the model was trained on.
“If the images produced are the same… then publishing [those images] Copyright can be violated,” Taichi Kakinuma, an AI-focused partner at law firm Storia and a member of the Finance Ministry’s committee on contract guidelines for AI and data, told me. This is the danger with Mimic and similar generators designed to imitate an artist. “Such [a result] Can only be produced if trained with the images of a particular author,” Kakinuma said.
But successful legal cases against AI firms are unlikely, said Kazuyasu Shiraishi, a partner at Tokyo-headquartered law firm TMI Associates. In 2018, the National Diet, Japan’s legislative body, amended the national copyright law to allow machine-learning models to scrape copyrighted data from the Internet without permission, providing a liability shield for services like NovelAI.
Whether the images are sold for profit has little bearing on copyright infringement cases in Japanese courts, Shiraishi said. But it’s a real fear for many working artists.
Haruka Fukui, a Tokyo-based artist who creates queer romance anime and manga, admits that despite recent protests, AI technology is on track to change the industry for illustrators like her. “There is concern that demand for illustrations will decrease and requests will disappear,” she says. “Technological progress has the benefits of both cost reduction and the fear of fewer jobs.”
Fukui herself considered using AI as an assistive tool, but showed reluctance when asked if she would give her blessing to AI art created using her work.
“I’m not considering legal action for personal use,” she said. “[But] I will take legal action if I express my opinion on this matter and earn money,” she added. “If the artist rejects it, it must cease to be used.”
But Kim Jung Gi’s performances may not be close to artists giving their blessing. “You can’t express your intentions after death,” Fukui admits. “But if you could ask the family’s thoughts.”