AI Generated Avatars Are Quirky and Easy to Make, but Are They Ethical?

Here's why the 'magic avatars' are creating controversy!

Hot Take
2 min read

If you're an avid user of the internet, some beautiful artworks made out of selfies called 'magical avatars' might have caught your eye. But, of course, it's not all magic, but the Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools and the unpaid labour of thousands of digital artists.

Lensa AI is primarily a photo editing app that was launched in 2018 by Prisma Labs. However, in the past month, after they introduced 'Magic Avatars' feature powered by Stable Diffusion (a neural network), the app's popularity has skyrocketed.


What are Magic Avatars? They are artworks and portraits created by the AI tool based on user-uploaded selfies. The Lensa App works on a subscription model and the user can get unique 'Magic Avatars' for a few hundred rupees, based on the number of avatars user wants.

Here's why the 'magic avatars' are creating controversy!

Magic avatar of Elon musk

(Photo Courtesy: Twitter/ @PrismaAI)

How does the machine learning work? The neural networks are designed like human brains, that can learn, process, and adapt to new information by using data.

Where does the problem lie? While AI is a fascinating tool, it comes with its own sets of problems.

  • The neural network used by the app relies on the data from images on the internet, original artworks of thousands of artists - including the copyrighted and watermarked images - without the consent of the artists.

  • These artworks replicate the style of the artists, without giving them proper attribution.

Artists' concerns include the gross misuse of their artwork and violation of their intellectual property rights.

  • Since, the copyright laws don't allow patenting a particular artwork-style, artists are left with little or no say against the issue, while a particular avatar generated by the AI may have striking resemblance of their stylistic work.

  • Many artworks created by the app, have also displayed the signatures of artists, while they had no contribution to the artwork.

  • Artists also pointed out that while it takes them years to perfect an artistic style, the app can replicate their style within a few minutes for less money - putting the jobs at risk.

Privacy issues: There are concerns over how the app enhances the user-images and also creates NSFW images. Besides, when a user uploads images and videos on the Lensa App, they consent to their data being used by the company in any way they wish to, without providing any compensation.

Statement by Prisma Labs: After the controversy erupted, Prisma Labs, the company behind the Lensa AI, tweeted clarification.

"As cinema didn't kill theatre and accounting software hasn't eradicated the profession, AI won't replace artists but can become a great assisting tool," they wrote on Twitter.

(With inputs from NBC news and Indian Express)

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