Shutterstock Will Soon Offer Licensed DALL-E 2 Images, Showing What The Future Of Generative AI Might Look Like

Tech Industry

The internet’s top provider of stock imagery, Shutterstock, says it will add AI-generated images, powered by OpenAI’s DALL-E 2 generative search engine.

The announcement is an expansion of an existing relationship struck between the two companies last year. OpenAI said it trained its DALL-E system using Shutterstock data, with Sam Altman, OpenAI’s CEO, adding the data was critical to training DALL-E.

DALL-E integration is expected to launch in the coming months on Shutterstock’s website, which the company said will “improve creative workflows.”

“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,” Altman said in a statement.

Shutterstock’s approach may also be a preview on how contributing photographers that inspire these AI models are compensated. The company said it would provide compensation for artists whose works have contributed to the development of AI models, as well as royalties whenever their intellectual property is used, but did not offer details beyond that.


Generative art AI models are trained on scrapped internet data, in this case, images. While some analysts have argued these systems are using this data under fair use, others have argued AI search engines are violating copyrights.

Despite gaining mass popularity with AI evangelists, generative image search engines are closed to the public, with very few commercial applications to date. For instance, until the partnership was struck, a company or individual could not easily “license” a DALL-E 2 image. Partnerships with massive stock image websites, like Shutterstock, may be the key to creating a sustainable business model around the nascent technology.

However, not every stock image website is eager to rush onto the generative AI train. Right after the Shutterstock announcement, competitor Getty Images said it would be partnering with AI company BRIA to develop “responsible AI” tools centered around image editing, but not generation.

In an interview with The Verge, Getty Images CEO Craig Peters expressed concerns about the legal risks surrounding the technology.

“There’s a lot of questions out there right now — about who owns the copyright to that material, about the rights that were leveraged to create that material — and we don’t want to put our customers into that legal risk area,” he tells The Verge. “There have been assertions that copyright is owned by x, y, z, by certain platforms, but I don’t think those questions have been answered.”

Shutterstock currently has AI-powered capabilities built in its platform after the acquisition of three companies, Pattern89, Datasine, and Shotzr. These tools work primarily in assisting users with the image selection process. Its catalog has over 200 million royalty-free stock images and other graphics, as well as video clips and royalty-free music for licensing.


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