Ethics around using free stock as MJ references?

How do people feel about using (free) stock images as references images in Midjourney?

E.g. recently I found a stock image of a woman that I planned to use in a design, it was ‘almost’ there but the pose wasn’t quite right.

So I used it as a reference in MJ to create an alternative version… basically a woman who looked similar but in a different pose.

What does everyone think? To me it seems fine seeing as the images are free anyway?

Legally, it depends on the licensing agreement for the stock photo. Even the free photos on Pixabay, Pexels, and others are copyrighted, and their use needs to be consistent with that licensing agreement. Every free-to-use stock photo site has a copy of that agreement on the site.

As for MidJourney, I have all kinds of concerns about it that extend far beyond copyright issues.

Thanks, to be honest Im not too concerned about copyright issues… I just assumed it would be legal due to the images being free.

I’m mainly wondering about if it is generally classed as ‘cool’ or not lol, seeing as AI is such a controversial topic, especially for those stock image contributors.

I can understand those selling stock images obviously wouldnt want their images being used as references, but I feel like it should be okay with the free ones. Then again, it probably is more up to the contributors themselves

I don’t think anyone has sorted out those concerns yet and they’re largely the same as those I mentioned in my last sentence.

Artificial Intelligence will likely upset everything we’re doing within the next few years — not only photographers and illustrators but designers too. How it will all shake out in the end, I don’t know.

For that matter, the whole AI thing will affect nearly every profession in some way or another. It will have profound effects on society as a whole. The spooky part for me is that we’re just beginning to see the very first iterations of it, and it will only become more capable and more ubiquitous as it matures.

What spooks me the most isn’t AI but AGI (artificial general intelligence), which is only a few years away.

Anyway, back to MidJourney… Despite my reservations, if the quality of what you need is good enough, I’d be hesitantly inclined to use it. I’ve seen some amazing things done with MidJourney, but it’s never the kind of thing I need, so I’m sort of able to put off making decisions like yours for a while longer.

Derivative is still derivative, doesn’t matter who or what redraws it.
Just be sure your free image is really free.

Sorry, but, at best, that statement is naive. At worst, unethical. Assumption can get you into some fairly hot water.

Even free images are not always free for every use. The ones that are most likely to get you in trouble are images with identifiable people, places and previously copyright- or trademark-protected objects. As Just-B says, read the EULA to be safe.

Good point. Model and Property releases can be important.
It also never hurts to do a reverse lookup on the image. You never know when someone on a Free site posts something “derivative.”

There is actually a paying stock site that has uploads of otherwise available imagery too. Granted most of those are Public Domain or CC0 imagery but still, if you want to pay some grifter $400 for it, yeah, go right ahead. I had one get me in a licensing snarl. It was minor, but stupid, and resulted in a change of imagery when all was said and done.

Which brings up another point off topic. If you post CC0 imagery, don’t be surprised if you see it offered on some stock site for a not-insignificant fee.

I’d say it depends on the output. if it looks like the input but in a different pose, imho you are ok if input allows that use case legally, but …

As far as I know AI in general gets it’s abilities from everything it ever got as input.
So it’s never just the referenced images which flow into the output.

Maybe your task is easier and maybe legally safer with DragGAN AI

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If you use a stock image without permission or in a way that violates the copyright holder’s rights, you may face legal consequences. The exact consequences will depend on the severity of the violation and the laws of the country where the violation occurred.

If you are found to have violated copyright law by using a stock image without permission or in a way that infringes on the copyright holder’s rights, it is possible that it could appear in your personal records. This could potentially affect your ability to secure clients or employments in the future because nowadays employers or other orgs can do checks as part of screening process for employment.

If you are unsure about the legality of using an image, it is always best to err on the side of caution and seek permission from the copyright holder or use an alternative image.