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In Moment of Unbelievable Irony, Midjourney Accuses Stability AI of Image Theft

It turns out that generative AI companies don’t like it when you steal, sorry, scrape, images from them. Cue the world’s smallest violin.

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Over the weekend, someone who works for Midjourney, one of the generative AI companies that uses data scraped from artists without their consent, attempted to scrape all the prompt and image pairs from Stability AI, another generative AI company that uses data scraped from artists without their consent, crashing their servers in the process.

Midjourney was then down for 24 hours as a result of what basically functioned as a DDOS attack on their server; something Redditors with a better grasp of how servers function than me seem to believe is actually an infrastructure and planning failure on Midjourney’s part, rather than an intentional attack from alleged Stability AI employees. If appropriate fail-safes that limit the number of connections that can be made from a single IP address had been put in place, one or two accounts would never have been able to function like a DDOS attack. (The first D stands for distributed, as in coming from multiple directions.) That means that crashing Midjourney’s servers may have been a completely unintentional side effect by the scrapers rather than an intended or at least predicted outcome.

Midjourney responded to the incident by banning all Stable Diffusion developers from all Midjourney services.

Emad Mostaque, CEO of Stability AI, responded to the news by denying all knowledge of the incident and expressing his support for Midjourney, stating a willingness to help Midjourney’s investigation into what happened.

Meanwhile, Midjourney CEO David Holz publicly responded to Mostaque’s statement of denial on X, the app formally known as Twitter (a statement it pains me to write out), “letting him know” that he’d sent over some data to help with Stability AI’s internal investigation.

It’s so cute the way CEOs and corporations pantomime out talking to each other like they’re friends publicly on X to try and convince everyone that they’re just regular guys, when we all know that the actual communications are happening in private, and probably between underlings. CEOs, they’re just like us—except, you know, all the disproportionate salaries and unimaginable wealth, but don’t think about that part too hard.

As funny an example of corporate espionage as this whole soap opera would be Mostaque’s previous support of Midjourney, including funding part of their server costs while in beta, does make it seem likely that this incursion actually was an unauthorized one, and we await the conclusion of this little corporate drama with interest.

Seriously though, can we all take a moment to appreciate that a corporation whose entire product is built on image theft is getting mad about image theft damaging their company’s ability to keep on destroying an entire creative industry? I assume the irony is going over all of their heads but it is delicious.

(featured image: ABC)

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Siobhan Ball
Siobhan Ball (she/her) is a contributing writer covering news, queer stuff, politics and Star Wars. A former historian and archivist, she made her first forays into journalism by writing a number of queer history articles c. 2016 and things spiralled from there. When she's not working she's still writing, with several novels and a book on Irish myth on the go, as well as developing her skills as a jeweller.