They are protesting against placing AI art on the platform.
ArtStation artists started a public protest against the promotion of AI art as a result of the appearance of AI-generated images on the main page of the platform. Users flooded the service with identical images with a big red "No" sign and the caption "NO TO AI-GENERATED IMAGES".
The protests at ArtStation began on October 13th. The conflict arose amid a growing debate about the ethics of the usage of AI creativity. The neural networks are trained with thousands of paintings drawn by people to create new paintings or to copy existing ones without attribution.
Artist Nicholas Kole, who was named by Kotaku as the instigator of the protest, said that he had seen a post of a costume designer Imogen Chayes on the platform. She published the illustration "No AI", designed by Alexander Nanitchkov. Kole tried to support the idea and urged everyone on Twitter to do the same.
After the start of the protests, ArtStation released a statement clarifying its position. The company advocates for keeping AI-generated art on the platform because it doesn't violate the rules of the service. The service also claims it doesn’t want to “become a gatekeeper with site terms that stifle AI research and commercialization when it respects artists' choices and copyright law”. A spokesperson from Epic (ArtStation’s parent company) also told Motherboard that it did not make any agreements with AI companies that would allow them to scrape content from its website.
On the 15th of October ArtStation updated its statement. The service said it will invite artists to determine which research can use their work. Authors will be able to choose one of three options: use in commercial research with AI, use in non-commercial research with AI, and prohibit the use of work in any research with AI. This caused a new wave of indignation of users under the statement of ArtStation on Twitter.
Blogger Scarce, who has over 3 million YouTube subscribers, backed the artists' claims. He also noted that he stopped going to ArtStation due to the fact that the service was flooded with AI-generated images.
Many artists have publicly spoken out against training neural networks with their work without permission. For example, artist David O' Reilly spoke up against the AI text-to-image model called Dall-E. He stated that “Dalle-E undermines the work of creators of all kinds, most obviously photographers, illustrators, and concept artists who shared their work online, and never asked to be included in a proprietary learning model.”
Stock image websites such as Shutterstock and Getty Images have already banned the upload and sale of AI images. But not everyone does the same. For example, Adobe Stock allows the sale of AI-generated images, but the platform adds some restrictions, such as requirement to tag relevant pictures and to add information about the original content — authors, people, places, the style of the artist, and other data.