AI risks and benefits for contemporary arts practice

NAVA survey shows concern over the impacts of AI on copyright and employment prospects.

Although Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been around for decades, recent developments have made it more accessible than ever before, prompting questions and speculations about its use and impact on artists’ work and practices. Generative AI offers a world of creative and supportive potential. It also poses significant challenges, from copyright, privacy and data protection to its large environmental footprint.

In March 2023, Google announced additional AI-powered features for Google Workspace and OpenAI launched GPT4, the latest and most powerful version of the company’s language model to date. Generative AI – a data driven form of AI that can produce content including text, images, and audio – has since become widely available to the general public, much like how social media became widespread in the mid-2000s.

Many artists are producing brilliant work interacting and collaborating with generative AI in their creative practices. There are also many examples of AI serving supportive roles in administration. However, digital innovation moves faster than the law and other forms of regulation, leaving space for potential and ongoing harm to the work, incomes and rights of independent practitioners. While NAVA embraces AI’s benefits, the primary focus of current advocacy work is to ensure the risks are central considerations in the development of AI and copyright laws, regulation and policy. 

Last month, NAVA and the Arts Law Centre of Australia (with the support of the Australian Society of Authors) asked artists and creators how AI impacts or feeds into their work and what regulation should be considered around AI platform development and output. The responses will help inform NAVA’s contribution to the next Attorney-General's Department roundtable on AI planned for 28 August and upcoming government inquiries. NAVA is currently working on a submission to the Department of Industry, Science and Resources in response to the Supporting responsible AI: discussion paper

Almost 40% of survey respondents use generative AI in their creative process. Some use it to assist with written work, including editing and grant applications through Chat GPT, and others for creative content and ideation processes. 86% of respondents said that if they use generative AI in their creative process, just 10% of the final work is derived from generative AI use.

Concern for the impacts of AI on the creative sector are high. 64% expressed anxiety over its threat to employment prospects. Half of the respondents are concerned that generative AI could reduce the income creators can earn from their creative work and another half feared the use of generative AI will replace human creators. 

11% of respondents expressed concern about finding their work on a generative AI platform without permission, 28% said no, and 61% said they don’t know, indicating a lack of transparency and information about the use of creative work in generative AI input and training.

The survey results show that while there are potential benefits to the use of generative AI, these are outweighed by fears of the risks and impacts on the professional work of independent artists. Transparency and copyright are essential to protect creator livelihoods. 

Image: Xanthe Dobbie, 2021, 'AI Avatar' from 'Real_Things' Collection, digital collage desktop wallpaper in 16:10, courtesy of the artist.

ID: An orange-themed collage work featuring screenshots of images posted on Instagram, emojis, social media and web application icons, a text message that says ‘Crush’, screenshots of tweets, an iPhone, flowers, flames, and a large digital hand holding a phone.