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An Open Letter from Artists Using Generative AI

Better Internet, Open Creativity, Technology
A bluish surrealist painting generated by the DALL-E 2 AI platform showing a small grayish human figure holding a gift out to a larger robot that has its arms extended and a head like a cello.

Better Sharing With AI” by Creative Commons was generated by the DALL-E 2 AI platform with the text prompt “A surrealist painting in the style of Salvador Dali of a robot giving a gift to a person playing a cello.” CC dedicates any rights it holds to the image to the public domain via CC0.

As part of Creative Commons’ ongoing community consultation on generative AI, CC has engaged with a wide variety of stakeholders, including artists and content creators, about how to help make generative AI work better for everyone.

Certainly, many artists have significant concerns about AI, and we continue to explore the many ways they might be addressed. Just last week, we highlighted the useful roles that could be played by new tools to signal whether an artist approves of use of their works for AI training.

At the same time, artists are not homogenous, and many others are benefiting from this new technology. Unfortunately, the debate about generative AI has too often become polarized and destructive, with artists who use AI facing harassment and even death threats. As part of the consultation, we also explored how to surface these artists’ experiences and views.

Today, we’re publishing an open letter from over 70 artists who use generative AI. It grew from conversations with an initial cohort of the full signatory list, and we hope it can help foster inclusive, informed discussions.

Signed by artists like Nettrice Gaskins, dadabots, Rob Sheridan, Charlie Engman, Tim Boucher, illustrata, makeitrad, Jrdsctt, Thomas K. Yonge,, Deltasauce, and Cristóbal Valenzuela, the letter reads in part:

“We write this letter today as professional artists using generative AI tools to help us put soul in our work. Our creative processes with AI tools stretch back for years, or in the case of simpler AI tools such as in music production software, for decades. Many of us are artists who have dedicated our lives to studying in traditional mediums while dreaming of generative AI’s capabilities. For others, generative AI is making art more accessible or allowing them to pioneer entirely new artistic mediums. Just like previous innovations, these tools lower barriers in creating art—a career that has been traditionally limited to those with considerable financial means, abled bodies, and the right social connections.”

Read the full letter and list of signatories. If you would like to have your name added to this list and are interested in follow-up actions with this group, please sign our form. You can share the letter with this shorter link:

While the policy issues here are globally relevant, the letter is addressed to Senator Chuck Schumer and the US Congress in light of ongoing hearings and “Insight Fora” on AI hosted in the USA. Next week, Schumer is hosting one of these Fora, but the attendees are primarily from tech companies; the Motion Picture Association of America and the Writers Guild of America are invited, but there are no artists using generative AI specifically.

We also invited artists to share additional perspectives with us, some of which we’re publishing here:

Nettrice Gaskins said: “Generative AI imaging is a continuation of creative practices I learned as a college student, in my computer graphics courses. It’s the way of the future, made accessible to us in the present, so don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.”

Elizabeth Ann West said: “Generative AI has allowed me to make a living wage again with my writing, allowing me to get words on the page even when mental and chronic health conditions made doing so nearly impossible. I published 3 books the first year I had access to Davinci 3. Generative AI allows me to work faster and better for my readers.”

JosephC said: “There must be room for nuance in the ongoing discussion about machine-generated content, and I feel that the context vacuum of online discourse has made it impossible to talk and be heard when it comes to the important details of consent, the implications of regulation, and the prospects of making lives better. We need to ensure that consenting creatives can see their work become part of something greater, we need to ensure pioneering artists are free to express themselves in the medium that gives them voice, and we need to be mindful of the wishes of artists who desire to have their influence only touch the eyes and ears and minds of select other humans in the way they want. Opportunities abound; let us work together to realize them.”

Tim Simpson said: “Generative AI is the photography of this century. It’s an incredible new medium that has immense potential to be leveraged by artists, particularly indie artists, to pursue artistic visions that would have been completely infeasible for solo artists and small teams just a year ago. Open source AI tools are immensely important to the development of this medium and making sure that it remains available to the average person instead of being walled off into monopolized corporate silos. Many of the regulatory schemes that are being proposed today jeopardize that potential, and I strongly urge congress to support measures that keep these tools open and freely available to all.”

Rob Sheridan said: “As a 25 year professional artist and art director, I’ve adapted to many shifts in the creative industry, and see no reason to panic with regards to AI art technology itself….I fully understand and appreciate the concerns that artists have about AI art tools. With ANY new technology that automates human labor, we unfortunately live under a predatory capitalism where corporations are incentivized to ruthlessly cut human costs any way they can, and they’ve made no effort to hide their intentions with AI (how many of those intentions are realistic and how many are products of an AI hype bubble is a different conversation). But this is a systemic problem that goes well beyond artists; a problem that didn’t begin with AI, and won’t end with AI. Every type of workforce in America is facing this problem, and the solutions lie in labor organizing and in uniting across industries for major systemic changes like universal healthcare and universal guaranteed income. Banning or over-regulating AI art tools might plug one small hole in the leaky dam of corporate exploitation, but it closes a huge potential doorway for small creators and businesses.”

Like the rest of the world, CC has been watching generative AI and trying to understand the many complex issues raised by these amazing new tools. We are especially focused on the intersection of copyright law and generative AI. How can CC’s strategy for better sharing support the development of this technology while also respecting the work of human creators? How can we ensure AI operates in a better internet for everyone? We are exploring these issues in a series of blog posts by the CC team and invited guests that look at concerns related to AI inputs (training data), AI outputs (works created by AI tools), and the ways that people use AI. Read our overview on generative AI or see all our posts on AI.

Note: We use “artificial intelligence” and “AI” as shorthand terms for what we know is a complex field of technologies and practices, currently involving machine learning and large language models (LLMs). Using the abbreviation “AI” is handy, but not ideal, because we recognize that AI is not really “artificial” (in that AI is created and used by humans), nor “intelligent” (at least in the way we think of human intelligence).

Posted 07 September 2023