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EU Passes Artificial Intelligence Act: Implications for US Photographers

Like it or not, AI in some form is here to stay. The main questions are (a) what will be the rules governing or regulating it; (b) how will those rules impact creatives such as photographers and the art world in general; and, (c) if or when such rules will be applied in the United States?

In a landmark move on March 13, 2024, the European Union (EU) made significant strides in regulating artificial intelligence (AI) with the passage of the "Artificial Intelligence Act." This comprehensive legislation aims to set clear guidelines and standards for the development and deployment of AI systems across various sectors, posing both challenges and opportunities for creatives, including photographers. As the EU takes this step, the repercussions are likely to resonate globally, potentially influencing future regulations in other parts of the world, such as the US.

EU passes Artificial Intelligence Act - What does it mean for creatives in the US?
EU passes Artificial Intelligence Act - What does it mean for creatives in the US? Image made with Midjourney 6.0.

The AI Act addresses a wide range of AI applications, from self-driving cars to facial recognition technology, but its impact on the creative industry, particularly photography and music, is noteworthy. Here's a closer look, from what I could determine, at how this legislation might affect photographers.

Transparency and Accountability

  • One of the key provisions of the AI Act is the emphasis on transparency and accountability in AI systems. For photographers utilizing AI-driven tools and technologies, this may mean being more transparent about the use of AI in their creative processes. Whether employing AI for image enhancement, facial recognition in photo databases, or automated tagging, particularly in image generation, photographers may need to disclose their use of AI and ensure accountability for any biases or inaccuracies that may arise. 

  • It will be interesting to see how all this plays out for tools many of us use in our everyday work, such as Photoshop, Topaz AI, and others, which now incorporate several AI-driven tools, including generative features. Readers of our blog may be familiar with my writings on this subject, including a recent article, “The Evolving Role of AI in Photography: A Conversation for Photographers.”

Ethical Considerations

  • The new regulations also address ethical concerns surrounding AI, such as data privacy, algorithmic bias, and the potential for misuse, which are central to the AI Act. For photographers, especially those involved in news, sports, and politics, adhering to ethical guidelines becomes paramount, not that they shouldn’t already. This may involve implementing safeguards to protect individuals' privacy rights, mitigating biases in AI algorithms, and prioritizing the ethical implications of AI-driven creative decisions.

Intellectual Property Rights and the Artificial Intelligence Act

  • The AI Act addresses intellectual property rights in the context of AI-generated content, raising pertinent questions for photographers. As AI becomes increasingly capable of generating original works, such as paintings, music, and even photographs, the delineation of ownership and copyright becomes complex and controversial. Photographers may need to navigate new legal frameworks to protect their creative assets and assert their rights in an AI-driven landscape where authorship can be ambiguous.

  • At Aiello Studios, we publish images in which we have used various degrees of image generation to “reimagine” an original photograph in our Digital Art portfolio to differentiate them from our photos. We also published an AI Transparency Statement some time ago as a matter of full disclosure. I imagine this will become commonplace.

  • Another aspect of the regulation that I think nearly all creatives can support is that AI training platforms will have to give artists a way to opt out so that their work is not included in the training datasets. I encourage photographers to check out the following resources dealing with this important topic.

Potential Influence on US Regulations

  • While the AI Act directly impacts entities operating within the EU, its passage could catalyze discussions and actions regarding AI regulation in other jurisdictions, including the United States. As the world's largest economy and a hub for technological innovation, the US may look to the EU's approach as a reference point for shaping its own AI policies. Thus, photographers in the US should monitor developments closely and anticipate potential regulatory shifts that could affect their creative practices.

In Summary

The EU's passage of the Artificial Intelligence Act marks a significant milestone in the regulation of AI, with profound implications for creatives like photographers. From transparency and ethical considerations to intellectual property rights and more, photographers should consider keeping up with the evolving regulatory landscape while exploring AI's transformative potential in their craft. It is my belief that as the conversation on AI regulation continues to unfold, particularly in the US, that photographers should stay informed, adaptable, and ethically responsible in harnessing the power of AI for creative expression.

I will continue to report on developments in AI as they apply to fine art photography in our blog and on our Facebook page. You are also invited to join our mailing list to stay updated.



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