(banner art by Jamie Arpin-Ricci & Midjourney AI)

The Ethics of AI Generated Art

Jamie Arpin-Ricci
9 min readSep 13, 2022

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Chances are you’ve already seen the headline (or some variation thereof):

“AI won an art contest, and artists are furious”

Here’s what happened: A Colorado man entered an art competition at the Colorado State Fair Fine Arts Competition in the category of “digital arts/digitally-manipulated photography”. The problem, however, was that he produced the image using Midjourney, an online AI program that produces images based on user text input. He entered the piece using the name “Jason M. Allen via Midjourney”, thus disclosing the use of the AI and meeting all competition rules. And he won! The judges were not initially aware that AI was used, yet later admitted that they still would have awarded Allen the prize even if they had. As the headline above attests, many artists the world over were not pleased with this outcome. In fact, many were livid.

(image from CNN, courtesy of Jason Allen)

This story is an apt touchstone for the emerging debates on the ethics of AI-generated images. While artists have good reason to be angry with the outcome of that content, I am not sure it is for the reasons they think. Like many people engaged in this debate, a lot of anger and energy is being misdirected, missing the heart of the…

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Jamie Arpin-Ricci

Jamie Arpin-Ricci is a bisexual author & activist with more than 25 years experience living at the intersection of faith, sexuality, and justice.