German photographer Robert Kneschke tried to remove his photos from a database used to train AI image generators, but was rejected and billed for $979 for an unfounded copyright infringement complaint, writes Vice.

The photographer learned about his own images being used to train AI on a website called Have I Been Trained? in February. He searched the LAION-5B database, which contains more than 5.8 billion images owned by the non-profit organization Large-scale Artificial Intelligence Open Network (LAION).

Then the photographer decided to request the removal of his own photos from the LAION database. But he received a letter from the organization stating that it complies with copyright laws and that it is impossible to remove his image.

“Our client only maintains a database that contains links to image files that are publicly available on the Internet. It cannot be ruled out that the database may also contain links to images that you are the author of,” the letter, written by the law firm Heidrich Rechtsanwälte on behalf of LAION, said.

It also added that since the organization’s client does not store the photos complained about by Robert Kneschke, he has no right to have them removed. At the same time, the letter threatened to collect damages because the photographer had allegedly filed an unfounded complaint of copyright infringement.

In March, Robert decided to submit a cease-and-desist request asking LAION to remove his images from the training dataset. He also requested information on the scope, duration and origin of the images used. However, LAION replied again that there was no copyright infringement.

“Our client only found image files on the Internet for the initial training of a self-learning algorithm using so-called crawlers and briefly recorded and evaluated them to obtain information,” the organization’s lawyers added.

The letter also contained an invoice for $979 in euros and a demand to pay this amount within 14 days, otherwise, the firm would resort to legal action. Robert Kneschke is confused by this approach to resolving the situation and filed a lawsuit against LAION at the Hamburg Regional Court in Germany.

Let us remind you that this is not the first controversial situation regarding copyright related to artificial intelligence. Recently, the AI-written track Heart on My Sleeve has sharpened the creative and legal issues in the music industry. The release of the track has fueled concerns in the music business that AI models are learning from copyrighted works and displacing their authors.