Start Up No.1932: Getty sues Stable Diffusion on copyright, the Online Immigration Safety Bill, review your 2022 calendar, and more


In the UK, AM radio is said to have just 2% of radio listeners, yet use a third of all UK radio’s electricity. So being turned off is good, right? CC-licensed photo by Joe Haupt on Flickr.

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A selection of 9 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.


Getty Images is suing the creators of AI art tool Stable Diffusion for scraping its content – The Verge

James Vincent:

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In a press statement shared with The Verge, the stock photo company said it believes that Stability AI “unlawfully copied and processed millions of images protected by copyright” to train its software and that Getty Images has “commenced legal proceedings in the High Court of Justice in London” against the firm.

Getty Images CEO Craig Peters told The Verge in an interview that the company has issued Stability AI with a “letter before action” — a formal notification of impending litigation in the UK. (The company did not say whether legal proceedings would take place in the US, too.)

“The driver of that [letter] is Stability AI’s use of intellectual property of others — absent permission or consideration — to build a commercial offering of their own financial benefit,” said Peters. “We don’t believe this specific deployment of Stability’s commercial offering is covered by fair dealing in the UK or fair use in the US. The company made no outreach to Getty Images to utilize our or our contributors’ material so we’re taking an action to protect our and our contributors’ intellectual property rights.”

…AI art tools like Stable Diffusion rely on human-created images for training data, which companies scrape from the web, often without their creators’ knowledge or consent. AI firms claim this practice is covered by laws like the US fair use doctrine, but many rights holders disagree and say it constitutes copyright violation.

…Andres Guadamuz, an academic specializing in AI and intellectual property law at the UK’s University of Sussex, told The Verge it seemed like the case would have “more merit” than other existing AI lawsuits, but that “the devil will be in the details.”

When asked what remedies against Getty Images would be seeking from Stability AI, Peters said the company was not interested in financial damages or stopping the development of AI art tools, but in creating a new legal status quo (presumably one with favourable licensing terms for Getty Images).

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Getty says in its statement that “Getty Images provided licenses to leading technology innovators for purposes related to training artificial intelligence systems in a manner that respects personal and intellectual property rights. [However] Stability AI did not seek any such license”. As Guadamuz says, this isn’t a slam dunk either: the Lords are considering adding “model training” to the definition of fair dealing (as “fair use” is known in the UK). It might be a race against time for Getty.
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Discord acquires Gas, the popular app for teens to compliment each other • The Verge

Tom Warren:

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Discord has acquired the Gas social app. The poll-based app has become popular among teens in recent months, allowing friends to share compliments with each other. The app is designed for anonymous compliments and positive affirmations or, as kids say, gassing your friends up.

Gas has polls that ask users to vote for things like the most beautiful person they’ve met or the classmate that isn’t afraid to get in trouble. It has soared in popularity among high schoolers since launching in August. One of the co-creators of TBH, a very similar teenager app acquired and shut down by Facebook, created Gas, which has caught the attention of more than 1 million daily active users and 30,000 new users per hour in October.

“Gas’ founders have a proven track record of creating exciting apps and experiences, and we’re thrilled to work with their team to take things to the next level,” says Discord in a blog post announcing the Gas acquisition. “At this time, Gas will continue as its own standalone app and the Gas team will be joining Discord to help our efforts to continue to grow across new and core audiences.”

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Absolutely no adult would dream of using this, which is part of why it’s smart for Discord to get in there.
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What does your calendar think you spent your time doing in 2022? • Calendar Review

Minutes is a company which .. does something with meetings? Anyway, it has a “calendar review” offering:

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Calendar Review creates a year end review of your Google Calendar and gives you insights on how much time you spent on meetings in 2022, your most attended meeting, longest meetings, etc. It helps you reflect back on how you spent your time in meetings in the year 2022.

What are the data requested by Calendar Review? Calendar Review requests for read only access to your Google Calendar, this includes the read only access to list of calendars and events in the calendars. Additionally, during sign-in, we also request for your name and email to identify Calendar Review users.
(P.S: we don’t send you any spam emails)

What is the requested data used for? The app requires read-only access to your calendar and events, to analyse the hours of meetings you had, and to create a summary of how your time was spent in meetings based on data from the calendar. We analyse event metadata to come with insights like how many hours were spent in meetings, number of late night calls, people you connected with the most, etc. No event data or other sensitive information from your calendar is stored with us.

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Though for all the assurances, you do still have to decide if you actually do trust them with access to your calendar.
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Global smartphone market shrinks 17% in Q4, to end 2022 with under 1.2 billion shipments • Canalys 

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Worldwide smartphone shipments fell 17% year on year in Q4 2022. Full-year 2022 shipments declined by 11% to fewer than 1.2 billion, reflecting an extremely challenging year for all vendors.

Apple reclaimed the top spot in Q4 and achieved its highest quarterly market share ever at 25%, despite facing shrinking demand and manufacturing issues in Zhengzhou. Samsung finished the quarter second with a 20% market share but was the largest vendor for the full year. Xiaomi retained third place despite its share falling to 11% in Q4, largely due to challenges in India. OPPO and vivo rounded out the top five, taking 10% and 8% market shares respectively. 

…Canalys forecasts flat to marginal growth for the smartphone market in 2023, with conditions expected to remain tough.

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Samsung plus Apple is 40% of the entire market for the year. The top five brands are 72% of the market – nearly three in every four phones sold.
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Looming Twitter interest payment leaves Elon Musk with unpalatable options • Financial Times

Tabby Kinder, Richard Waters and Eric Platt:

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Three people close to the entrepreneur’s buyout of Twitter said the first instalment of interest payments related to $13bn of debt he used to fund the takeover could be due as soon as the end of January. That debt means the company must pay about $1.5bn in annual interest payments.

The Tesla and SpaceX chief financed his $44bn deal to take Twitter private in October by securing the huge debt from a syndicate of banks led by Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Barclays and Mitsubishi. The $13bn debt is held by Twitter at a corporate level, with no personal guarantee by Musk.

Since the takeover, Musk has raced to cut costs, such as firing half the company’s staff, while seeking new revenue streams, such as launching its Twitter Blue subscription service.

The company’s dire finances — it made a loss of $221mn in 2021 before the acquisition and Musk has said revenues have declined since — have led the new owner to regularly raise the prospect that the company could crash into bankruptcy.

How Musk deals with the looming interest payment is a crucial test of his leadership of Twitter, which has so far been marked by chaotic management that has alienated its corporate advertisers. 

“This company is like you’re in a plane that is headed towards the ground at high speed with the engines on fire and the controls don’t work,” Musk said last month.

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Though it would help if he hadn’t directed the plane at the ground before setting the engines on fire and smashing the controls. And that’s despite all the money pouring – well, dripping – in from the Taliban.

Serious problem now, though. Selling Tesla shares could lead to a death spiral where the shares go down, so he has to sell more of them, so the shares…
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Donelan confirms stiffer online safety measures after backbench pressure • The Guardian

Dan Milmo:

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[Culture secretary Michelle Donelan] said [the amendment threatening tech execs with a criminal sanction of two years in jail for specific breaches] would not affect executives who “acted in good faith” to protect children, amid warnings from tech firms that threatening executives with jail could damage investment in the UK.

“While this amendment will not affect those who have acted in good faith to comply in a proportionate way, it gives the act additional teeth to deliver change and ensure that people are held to account if they fail to properly protect children,” she said.

Under a further change to the bill, video footage that shows people crossing the Channel in small boats in a “positive light” will be added to a list of illegal content that all tech platforms must proactively prevent from reaching users.

Donelan said posting positive videos of crossings could be aiding and abetting immigration offences. Natalie Elphicke, the Conservative MP for Dover, had originally tabled an amendment proposing the change.

Both amendments will be introduced when the bill moves to the House of Lords after its third reading in the Commons on Tuesday. The bill also places a duty of care on tech firms to shield users from illegal content such as child sexual abuse and terrorist material. Companies that breach the act could face fines of up to £18m or 10% of global turnover.

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Pause a moment and say: sorry, small boats, positive light? What is all this? Now read on.
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September 2022: Could public debate on immigration be suppressed by the Online Safety Bill? • Open Rights Group

Monica Horten:

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The Online Safety Bill imports Section 41 from the Nationality and Borders Act. It does so by means of a reference to the 1971 Immigration Act – Section 25 Assisting Unlawful Immigration – which is amended by Section 41 of the Nationality and Borders Act. The reference is hidden deep in a Schedule appended to the Bill (Schedule 7). Section 41 is a highly controversial piece of law, part of the so-called “New Plan” introduced by Home Secretary Priti Patel, and furthers the government’s “hostile immigration environment” policy. It establishes a criminal offence of facilitating the arrival of asylum seekers to the UK, with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

Social media providers who identify this offence in content posted on their platforms would be under an obligation to remove it or prevent people from seeing it. Potentially, an offending social media post could be made to disappear whilst it is being uploaded by the user – a form of interception and characteristic of prior censorship.

There is a fundamental question about how platform providers go about detecting and identifying this content in a social media post. They could block people smugglers’ accounts, but more likely in the current political climate, they will look for posts containing images of what the government does not want to see – people arriving at UK beaches in small boats – and remove them.

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You have to ask, why on earth else would an online safety bill include stuff from the Immigration Act? The next step will be for the government to stop publishing the data about people arriving and seeking asylum (which, a reminder: is legal), and thus pretending the problem has gone away. Utterly despicable.
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The big AM switchoff gathers pace • radio futurologist

James Cridland:

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according to a government official, AM radio in the UK has about 2% of UK radio’s listening hours, yet costs 35% in electricity costs. It’s eye-wateringly expensive to be on AM if you look at the power costs.

Adam Bowie knows more than most, and has blogged about the intricate details of one of the UK’s special INR analogue licences coming off the AM band. He suggests it’s “a healthy six figure sum” to broadcast a national radio station on AM.

Steven Goldstein, blogging from CES, notes that Tesla, Porsche, Audi, Volvo, and Ford have all removed AM from their electric vehicles. Some suggest that it’s an interference issue; that’s probably part of the reason, though my hybrid Toyota Prius manages AM just fine – I also suspect it’s the cost of antennas and shielding.

Remaining on the AM dial in the UK – and using the same, shared, transmitter network – are talkSPORT and BBC Radio Five Live. It’s likely that this will, long term, mean that their costs increase.

AM radio is clearly on its last legs – regardless of what the DRM Consortium will tell you – and what happens in the US and Europe will have its effects elsewhere in the world.

Here in Australia, the ABC’s flagship speech services (ABC Local Radio, News Radio, and Radio National) are all on AM in the capital cities. Their presence on DAB – surely one of the escape rafts for these services – is never once mentioned. Each of those services is in decline. I worry.

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I can’t find anything authoritative about AM v FM power consumption, but that’s quite the delta there.
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I asked Chat GPT to “write a song in the style of Nick Cave” and this is what it produced • The Red Hand Files

Nick Cave, responding to the lyrics “in the style of Nick Cave” someone sent in:

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What makes a great song great is not its close resemblance to a recognizable work. Writing a good song is not mimicry, or replication, or pastiche, it is the opposite. It is an act of self-murder that destroys all one has strived to produce in the past.

It is those dangerous, heart-stopping departures that catapult the artist beyond the limits of what he or she recognises as their known self. This is part of the authentic creative struggle that precedes the invention of a unique lyric of actual value; it is the breathless confrontation with one’s vulnerability, one’s perilousness, one’s smallness, pitted against a sense of sudden shocking discovery; it is the redemptive artistic act that stirs the heart of the listener, where the listener recognizes in the inner workings of the song their own blood, their own struggle, their own suffering. This is what we humble humans can offer, that AI can only mimic, the transcendent journey of the artist that forever grapples with his or her own shortcomings. This is where human genius resides, deeply embedded within, yet reaching beyond, those limitations.

It may sound like I’m taking all this a little too personally, but I’m a songwriter who is engaged, at this very moment, in the process of songwriting.

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You wouldn’t guess he’s a songwriter, would you.
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• Why do social networks drive us a little mad?
• Why does angry content seem to dominate what we see?
• How much of a role do algorithms play in affecting what we see and do online?
• What can we do about it?
• Did Facebook have any inkling of what was coming in Myanmar in 2016?

Read Social Warming, my latest book, and find answers – and more.


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

2 thoughts on “Start Up No.1932: Getty sues Stable Diffusion on copyright, the Online Immigration Safety Bill, review your 2022 calendar, and more

  1. The BBC has done some research on the power demands of its different radio services: https://www.bbc.co.uk/rd/blog/2020-10-sustainability-radio-audio-energy-streaming-broadcast

    It’s not quite consistent with the figure quoted by James Cridland. The BBC’s own power is least for AM:

    The total energy required to prepare, distribute and consume BBC radio in our 2018 baseline was estimated to be 325 GWh, equivalent to 0.1% of UK electricity use that year. Of all five platforms, FM was found to have the biggest footprint overall at 100 GWh (31%) and AM the lowest at 25 GWh (8%), with IP (79 GWh; 24%), DAB (65 GWh; 20%) and DTV(56 GWh; 17%) falling in-between.

    On the consumption side, though, AM devices use three times as much power as DAB, which was a surprise to me — I had thought DAB was quite power-hungry.

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