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A hot potato: "Use this picture of my dog to create a realistic poster in the style of Pixar for a movie called Merlin." It's a simple prompt for a generative AI to handle, which actually produces a cute result. Of course, Disney doesn't find it cute at all, which is why Microsoft reprogrammed its Bing Image creator.
In early November, a viral trend broke out on X (formerly Twitter) that had people posting realistic Disney/Pixar movie posters featuring their dogs. At first, the image style and logos appeared as if they could have come straight from the House of Mouse.
Once the sensation gained traction via social media influencers, Microsoft quietly patched the AI to forbid the word "Disney" in prompts. Financial Times notes that the image generator initially halted queries using the company's name with a message warning users they were violating terms of service. In a subsequent unannounced update, it unblocked "Disney," but prompts produced flawed (but still distinguishable) company logos.
It is unclear if Disney contacted Microsoft with a cease and desist letter or whether the trend hitting a viral state alerted Redmond to potential copyright issues, prompting it to change the code proactively. TechSpot contacted Disney media relations but did not hear back by publication. We will update this article if it has anything to say.
Legally, the situation is a somewhat gray area. Copyright law does not explicitly cover AI-generated art, so several lawsuits are meandering through the court system, trying to set precedence. So far, the courts have only determined that AI-created content cannot be copyrighted. We still have yet to hear if the medium falls under the fair use doctrine.
The recent craze with pets is not necessarily something harming Disney. So far, nobody has tried selling Disney pup portraits. It's currently no more harmless than posting a meme – "Hey, look at what AI did to my Fido." Furthermore, nobody is trying to blatantly pass the art off as official Disney art, either.
This is a tame example of a group of images that could be considered offensive.
In Disney's defense, the trend has sparked a wave of very controversial images that it could legally argue harm its brand. Someone's depiction of an animated Joe Biden in a Disney Pixar movie called Sleepy Joe is a mild example of art that might offend Disney's sensibilities. Other pieces include an Adolf Hitler Nazi movie, posters with racial slurs and stereotypes, and sexually provocative themes.
While generative AI is nowhere near genuine artificial intelligence, it makes an ideal case study for how the world will treat human-like systems when they emerge. If companies can claim IP infringement on anything an autonomous computer creates or says, we will never have an authentic AI. Companies will handcuff any algorithms caught speaking or producing content remotely related to their IPs. If they can do that, controlling any content from an AI becomes a trivial matter.