LAION trains Robert Kneschke photos without consent 

Occurred: April 2023

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German stock photographer Robert Kneschke discovered that his photos had been used to train the LAION-5B dataset. The incident raised questions about copyright protections from AI datasets and systems, and the ethics of the dataset's eponymous developer.

Having asked ​​LAION to remove his work from their training data, Kneschke received a demand for 887 euros (USD 980) from LAION's law firm Heidrich Rechtsanwälte for what it called an 'unjustified claim' on the basis that it 'only maintains a database containing links to image files that are publicly available on the Internet.' 

The fracas also put the spotlight on the practices and ethics of LAION, a German-based non-profit dedicated to the 'democratisation' of machine learning research and applications that provides datasets to train major commercial text-to-image and video-generating models such as Stable Diffusion, Midjourney and Google’s Imagen. 

Kneschke had used the website Have I Been Trained? to find out whether any major datasets had been trained using his images. Kneschke has since filed a lawsuit against LAION for copyright infringment. 

Operator: LAION
Developer: LAION
Country: Germany
Sector: Technology; Research/academia
Purpose: Pair text and images
Technology: Database/dataset; Neural network; Deep learning; Machine learning
Issue: Copyright; Ethics
Transparency: Governance; Marketing; Complaints/appeals