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Last update on July 6, 2023

Shutterstock Rolls Out Indemnification for AI-Generated Images for Commercial Use

4 min read
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The stock media licensing and creative solutions platform Shutterstock speeds up ahead of the road to make AI-generated media safely licensable by starting today to offer full indemnification for the use and license of AI-generated images.

Available only for Enterprise customers, the new on-demand indemnification system requires pre-approval of AI-generated images for commercial use and provides indemnification against any legal claims, including copyright, trademark, and other third-party rights, for images created with Shutterstock Generate.

Like this, Shutterstock seeks to be the first image provider to claim its AI image generator is “commercially safe.” 

We have all the relevant details of the new license protocol for AI images below!

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Shutterstock Indemnification for AI-Generated Images: On-Demand, Human Review Process

The newly added indemnification for the usage and licensing of generative AI images created with Shutterstock Generate is, for now, available only for Enterprise subscribers –which makes sense, as brands and businesses are the ones with more skin in the game when it comes to legal risks for image usage–. It offers the standard indemnification terms and monetary amount that covers the agency's regular media for AI-generated media.

It is a three-step process but a relatively simple one. To get full indemnification on the commercial use of AI-generated content, you must:

  • Request a review of the image(s) you intend to use
  • Get approval of the image, as a team of expert human reviewers will check every request to make sure the content is compliant with Shutterstock's standards for commercial use
  • Use the image commercially and risk-free; once approved, the standard image license's indemnification will cover it fully.

This system has been beta-tested with a few selected corporate clients of Shutterstock over the past couple of months and is now rolling out for all Enterprise customers who have commercial usage rights as part of their subscription.

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Indemnification for Non-Reviewed AI Images

For content in use that has not been reviewed or reviewed but is not approved for full indemnification, Shutterstock offers limited legal backing.

Namely, they still indemnify users against claims that the license for AI-generated images is invalid or that the technology used to create them infringes third-party rights. But it will not cover the specific content in use unless it's been cleared beforehand.

Shutterstock Generate's Ethical Background for AI Image Generation

Another annotation worth making is that this indemnification policy applies to images created through Shutterstock Generate, the company's proprietary AI image generator. And this tool has been trained solely with licensed content from Shutterstock's libraries, which makes it safer, in terms of intellectual property infringement, than similar apps out there.

In addition, this firm created a Contributor Fund through which they compensate their signed-up artists for the use of their work in AI training datasets and for every time an AI-generated image is created using their data. This is intended as a more ethical approach that ensures the licenses you get for AI-generated media are still benefitting the artists whose work help make it possible.

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A Commercially Viable AI Image Licensing Solution

As we mentioned on AI Secrets before, one of the main concerns about AI-generated visuals has been the uncertainty around its legal validity and license-ability, particularly for commercial use. Brands and businesses have so far been artistically enthusiastic but practically cautious about embracing AI-generated content for their marketing purposes because they don’t have enough assurance they won’t incur legal risks. 

On the other side of the coin, artists worldwide have expressed discontent and complaints about having their work used to train AI image generators (which they view as competitors) without permission or compensation. 

And as Shutterstock’s General Counsel, John Lapham, put it, “(We) are uniquely positioned to bring a commercially viable image generator to market and indemnify its outputs, because of our relationship with artists and intimate understanding of the complexities of licensing.”

Their in-house trained AI image generator, their contributor data licensing compensation program, and now their new indemnification policy for AI-generated pictures are all developments that hope to solve the two aspects of this issue and make AI-generated media commercially licensable. 

Do you feel safer using Shutterstock’s AI-generated images for marketing and advertising now? Share your thoughts!


Ivanna Attie

All About Ivanna

I am an experienced author with expertise in digital communication, stock media, design, and creative tools. I have closely followed and reported on AI developments in this field since its early days. I have gained valuable industry insight through my work with leading digital media professionals since 2014.

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AI Insights from Experts

AI Secrets is a platform for tech decision-makers to learn about AI technology. Our team includes experts such as Amos Struck (20+ yrs ICT, Stock Photo, AI), Ivanna Attie (expert in digital comms, design, stock media), and more who share their views on AI.

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