Shutterstock Partners With OpenAI to Provide AI Content

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Written By Thomas Smith

The New York Times called Thomas Smith a "veteran programmer." For over a decade, Smith has led Gado Images, an AI-driven visual content company.

In an announcement sent to contributors this morning, Shutterstock made a huge change to its policy about AI-generated content. In partnership with OpenAI, Shutterstock will now allow its customers to generate AI images, in addition to licensing images from Shutterstock’s contributors.

“We’re excited to announce that we are partnering with OpenAI to bring the tools and experiences to the Shutterstock marketplace that will enable our customers to instantly generate and download images based on the keywords they enter,” the announcement reads.

Shutterstock’s announcement contains a few other important stipulations:

  • Shutterstock won’t accept AI generated content directly from contributors — they will only allow AI generated content provided through their direct partnership with OpenAI. They say “its authorship cannot be attributed to an individual person consistent with the original copyright ownership required to license rights.”
  • The announcement acknowledges that in many cases, “the work of many contributed to the creation of a single piece of AI-generated content.” Shutterstock says “we want to ensure that the many are protected and compensated, not just the individual that generated the content.” For that reason, Shutterstock is spreading royalties for AI-generated content among all contributors whose images were used to create the AI content. In their words, “Given the collective nature of generative content, we developed a revenue share compensation model where contributors whose content was involved in training the model will receive a share of the earnings from datasets and downloads of ALL AI-generated content produced on our platform.”
  • In an FAQ, Shutterstock implies that it licensed contributor content to OpenAI to help train OpenAI’s model.

A few things aren’t immediately clear:

  • Is Shutterstock using the stock DALL-E model, or did they train a custom model based only on their own contributors’ images? The distinction is a major one in terms of compensating non-Shutterstock contributors.
  • How significant will earnings be for Shutterstock contributors? Will this new revenue stream replace any revenue lost to competition with AI-generated images?

My Analysis

I was a DALL-E Beta tester for OpenAI. After using the model for about a week, I predicted that it would substantially disrupt the stock photo industry.

Now, that prediction appears right on the money. There’s still a lot of open questions, but Shutterstock is one of the world’s largest stock media companies.

Its decision to move into AI-generated content in such a substantial way is a massive signal that AI-generated content is here to stay, and that it’s going to be a substantial force in the stock media space.


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