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AI art used for the cover of best-selling author’s novel

The UK paperback edition of House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas features AI-generated art licensed from Adobe Stock images (Bloomsbury Books)
The UK paperback edition of House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas features AI-generated art licensed from Adobe Stock images (Bloomsbury Books)

Publisher Bloomsbury Books has used AI art for the cover of one of its author’s novels, The Verge has spotted.

The UK paperback edition of House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas features AI-generated art licensed from Adobe Stock images.

Bloomsbury appears to use a colourised version of the picture in Adobe’s library. It was added to Adobe’s Stock image portal by a user called Aperture Vintage.

While all of this account’s recent submissions appear to be AI-generated, only a small handful of them are listed as such — which is in conflict with Adobe Stock’s guidelines.

Bloomsbury’s use of AI art has caused a backlash on the author’s Instagram account, which has 1.2 million followers.

Is AI art ethical?

Twitter user @kalaelizabeth, a freelance illustrator, raised the Bloomsbury issue at the weekend.

“Extremely disappointed in @BloomsburyBooks for using AI on the most recent cover of Sarah J Maas’ book. Using adobe stock created by an AI generator that steals from hard working artists, while also avoiding paying a real illustrator is abhorrent,” she tweeted.

The novel’s original cover was created by artist Carlos Quevedo, but it was swapped for the Adobe Stock AI design in the latest paperback release. Maas, is one of Bloomsbury’s top authors, renowned for her young adult fantasy series such as Throne of Glass (2012), A Court of Thorns and Roses (2015), and Crescent City (2020) — the franchise that House of Earth and Blood is part of. Maas, who has sold more than 12 million books, does not appear to have acknowledged the use of AI art.

The replacing of real artists with AI ones has already had a dramatic impact in Chinese game studios, according to a recent report by Rest of World. And it is not only the relatively powerless lone worker affected.

Leading stock image supplier Getty Images in January sued Stability AI, creator of AI image generation tool Stable Diffusion, at London’s High Court of Justice. Similar proceedings in the US followed in February.

Getty Images claims the AI was trained using millions of its copyrighted images, as seen in generated images that bear the photo agency’s watermark. It is seeking $1.8 trillion (£1.44tn) in the latter case, based on $150,000 (£120,000) for each of its 12 million images.

The UK Government outlined its light touch “pro-innovation approach” to AI in a white paper published in March. For more discussion on whether AI art is “real” art, listen to the April 6 edition of Evening Standard’s The Leader podcast.