"The legal ownership of such AI-generated art is unclear."

Losing Steam

Another heavyweight of the gaming industry seems to be wrestling with the shaky legality of generative AI. Valve, who owns the game client and storefront Steam, is reportedly stopping games that use AI-generated art assets from being sold on its massively popular platform.

The news comes from an anonymous developer who claims their attempts to submit a game to Steam were blocked. In a post that's gone viral after being shared on Twitter, the developer admits that a large portion of their game's assets "have some AI involvement," later adding that they used Stable Diffusion.

A fatal error. A Valve moderator responded that Steam couldn't list the game because they identified it contained AI generated art assets "that appear to be relying on copyrighted material owned by third parties."

"As the legal ownership of such AI-generated art is unclear," the moderator added, "we cannot ship your game while it contains these AI-generated assets, unless you can affirmatively confirm that you own the rights to all of the IP used in the data set that trained the AI to create the assets in your game."

The game developer says they then "improved" those assets to remove "obvious signs of AI," but were still rejected after resubmitting.

Prudent Policy

Whether this moderator's response is official Valve policy remains to be seen because — in the company's usual taciturn fashion — it has so far not publicly clarified its position.

The careful wording seemingly would allow for an in-house AI like Blizzard's that's trained exclusively on assets that the developer owns, but could still spell bad news for the Unity game engine's new AI.

It's hard to figure out a coherent position, especially when there already appears to be games on the platform that use AI generated assets, as spotted by Ars Technica.

Regardless, from what we can tell, it looks like Valve — perhaps prudently — is choosing to sit this one out. And we don't blame 'em, because the legality surround a generative AI's output is highly contentious.

Artists have sued the companies behind AI image generators for training on their copyrighted art without permission or compensation. Getty Images has also filed a lawsuit along similar lines.

The pending outcomes of those lawsuits could play a massive role in shaping the ownership of AI images, and Valve may simply not want to be complicit in copyright infringement by shipping games that may incorporate stolen assets.

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