Stability AI’s head of audio Ed Newton-Rex has announced that he is resigning from the company, due to concerns over its use of copyrighted material in training its generative AI models.
Newton-Rex tweeted last night that he’s resigned because he doesn’t “agree with the company’s opinion that training generative AI models on copyrighted works is ‘fair use’”.
What is fair use?
Fair use is a legal term that many GenAI companies are using to defend their use of copyrighted material in the training data that goes into models, and was cited by Stability AI in its response to a recent call for public comments by the US Copyright Office.
Fair use is a complicated, and blurry, legal area, but generally protects people using copyrighted work in a limited way, such as for commentary or parody, if the work is “transformative” — i.e. it changes it in a meaningful way.
Stability’s CEO, Emad Mostaque, has long argued that GenAI models’ outputs are transformative, but Newton-Rex believes that the use of other creators’ material is not protected by fair use for another reason.
“One of the factors affecting whether the act of copying is fair use, according to Congress, is ‘the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work’,” he argued in his tweet.
“Today’s generative AI models can clearly be used to create works that compete with the copyrighted works they are trained on. So I don’t see how using copyrighted works to train generative AI models of this nature can be considered fair use.”
Newton-Rex added that “there are lots of people at Stability who are deeply thoughtful about these issues”, but also said he can “only support generative AI that doesn’t exploit creators by training models — which may replace them — on their work without permission”.
He is the latest in a line of senior employees to have left the company this year.
Mostaque tweeted in reply with a link to Stability’s submission to the US Copyright Office, saying it was “great working with” Newton-Rex and that this is an “important discussion”.
The departure marks the latest in a senior exodus from Stability this year, as 10 top execs have left the company.
Sifted reached out to Stability AI and Newton-Rex for comment.
A spokesperson for the company said: “We thank Ed for his contribution to Stability AI and wish him all the best in his future endeavours.”