Shutterstock partners with OpenAI to advance AI image generation

Shutterstock is expanding its partnership with OpenAI to advance how AI image generators are trained and how contributors are rewarded.

The stock image service will offer “direct access” to OpenAI’s DALL-E 2 image generator through its website.

“The mediums to express creativity are constantly evolving and expanding. We recognize that it is our great responsibility to embrace this evolution and to ensure that the generative technology that drives innovation is grounded in ethical practices,” said Paul Hennessy, CEO at Shutterstock.

“We have a long history of integrating AI into every part of our business. This expert-level competency makes Shutterstock the ideal partner to help our creative community navigate this new technology. And we’re committed to developing best practices and experiences to deliver on our purpose, which is to empower the world to create with confidence.”

OpenAI’s DALL-E 2 is one of the most popular image generators. To train DALL-E, OpenAI licensed data from Shutterstock.

“The data we licensed from Shutterstock was critical to the training of DALL-E,” said Sam Altman, OpenAI’s CEO.

“We’re excited for Shutterstock to offer DALL-E images to its customers as one of the first deployments through our API, and we look forward to future collaborations as artificial intelligence becomes an integral part of artists’ creative workflows.”

Shutterstock is creating frameworks that will compensate artists when their intellectual property is used and when their works have contributed to the development of AI models.

At its core, DALL-E uses a process called diffusion, which starts with a pattern of random dots and gradually alters that pattern towards an image when it recognises specific aspects of that image.

Put simply, users can input what they’re looking for and DALL-E 2 will generate an often very accurate image.

Due to concerns about the societal impact, including the generation of fake images for propaganda or hate purposes, OpenAI delayed making its tool publicly available until it was able to implement “a variety of mitigations aimed at preventing and mitigating related risks”.

Other popular AI generators – most notably, Midjourney and Stable Diffusion – beat OpenAI to public availability and surged in popularity.

DALL-E and Midjourney have fees when users exceed their free allocation, which serves to dissuade people from using them on any large scale for malicious purposes.

In contrast, Stable Diffusion is free and can be run on a local computer with under 10GB of VRAM. The result is that it’s become popular with communities that create explicit images of celebrities.

OpenAI says that more than 1.5 million users are now actively creating over two million images a day with DALL-E. Shutterstock says that it will launch its DALL-E integration in the coming months.

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