Midjourney image generator
Released: July 2022
Midjourney is a subscription-based AI programme created by a company of the same name that creates images from textual descriptions. Similar to OpenAI's DALL-E and Stable Diffusion, Midjourney has been available in open beta since its launch in July 2022 via a Discord bot on its official Discord.
In March 2023, Midjourney version 5 was released, significantly improving the quality of images depicting people. The same month, the company announced it was stopping free trials of its technology citing a massive influx of new users abusing free credits.
Midjourney has been praised for the variety and quality of the images it produces and, according to its CEO David Holz, is already profitable. But it has also met with criticism and resistance:
Copyright: Midjourney and similar AI image generation tools have been heavily criticised for being trained on human-made art scraped from the web, and copied or remixed without attribution. The San Francisco Ballet was accused of IP theft after it had used a Midjourney-generated image to promote its annual Nutcracker production. Ammaar Reeshi drew the ire of artists and illustrators for creating childrens book Alice and Sparkle over a single weekend using Midjourney. The US Copyright Office ruled that Midjourney-generated images used in the comic book Zarya of the Dawn should not have been granted copyright protection. Midjourney and similar services also faced public backlashes from prominent art communities and artists.
Employment: Artists lamented Jason Allen's first place at the Colorado State Fair's fine art competition, seeing his use of Midjourney as accelerating the death of creative jobs. Atlantic journalist Charlie Warzel's use of a Midjourney-created image of InfoWars provocateur Alex Jones prompted people to accuse the magazine of eliminating the need for illustrators and cutting costs.
Mis/disinformation: The realism of images generated by Midjourney, notably by version 5, has made it easier to fool people into believing they are real. Fake images of the Pope donning a white puffa jacket, and of Donald Trump being arrested, are the first mainstream examples.
Safety: While Midjourney is generally considered safer than Stable Diffusion, DALL-E and other image generation systems, it has still proved possible to produce images of pornstars and other NSFW content. In February 2023, Midjourney attempted to block porn by banning words about the human reproductive system.
Privacy: David Holz outraged artists, illustrators and photographers by confessing to using hundreds of millions of images Midjourney didn’t have permission for to train its AI image generator.
Artists can request their work to be removed from the dataset if they believe their copyright has been infringed. However, Midjourney only introduced this feature after artists complained, and then made it challenging for artists to remove their work by burying the information in the app terms of service.
Country: USA; Global
Purpose: Generate images
Technology: Text-to-image; Neural network; Deep learning; Machine learning
Issue: Copyright; Ethics; Employment - jobs; Privacy; Safety
Transparency: Governance; Black box; Marketing; Privacy
Stanford HAI (2023). 2023 AI Index Report - 3.2 AI Incidents (pdf)
Wolfe R., Yang Y., Howe B., Aylin Caliskan A. (2022). Contrastive Language-Vision AI Models Pretrained on Web-Scraped Multimodal Data Exhibit Sexual Objectification Bias (pdf)
News, commentary, analysis
Published: December 2022
Last updated: May 2023