Apr 15, 2024 - Technology

Adobe struggles to stay creator-friendly in AI push

A screenshot from a video Adobe made to show how it could incorporate other models, in this case OpenAI.

A screenshot from a video Adobe made showing how Premiere Pro could incorporate other AI models: in this case, one from OpenAI. Image: Adobe

While it continues to work on its own AI models, promoted as "commercially safe," Adobe said Monday it plans to allow customers to bring other models into professional image and video programs, including its Premiere Pro video program.

Why it matters: The move comes amid a huge debate over the legality and ethics of generative AI among artists and other creators — Adobe's core customers.

Driving the news: At a trade show for broadcasters on Monday, Adobe is offering a sneak peek of how third-party models could be incorporated into the Premiere Pro video program. Adobe plans to support OpenAI's Sora text-to-video engine, as well as models from startups Runway and Pika Labs.

  • Adobe says it will add content credentials indicating which AI models were used.
  • The company has yet to decide exactly how customers will access third-party models from within Adobe's graphics tools, or how, and how much, they will pay. "We haven't figured that out yet," Adobe chief strategy officer Scott Belsky told Axios.

Friction point: Adobe's "commercially safe" promise is a pledge to customers that its AI has been trained using only images the company has rights to, and Adobe takes on legal liabilities for its users.

  • While a few other AI makers offer similar legal indemnifications, most major generative AI tools have cast a wide net for training data, using "publicly available" data that may be under copyright.
  • Multiple lawsuits by artists, writers and other creators and publishers have already been brought against major AI firms challenging their use of copyrighted material to train models.

What they're saying: In an exclusive interview with Axios, Belsky said Adobe still expects most large customers will want to use commercially safe models, such as Adobe's Firefly, for their final work. But the company also now believes that many want greater versatility, particularly as they come up with ideas.

  • "If we didn't support some of these nuanced [approaches], we would be doing a disservice to our customers," Belsky said.
  • Adobe already supports third-party AI models in Acrobat, but Monday's announcement marks the first time the company has said it would do so in the key Creative Cloud tools — such as Photoshop, Illustrator and Premiere — used widely in creative shops.

Between the lines: By directly allowing third-party AI engines within its tools, Adobe risks blowback from customers who believe those tools were trained using artists' work without permission or compensation.

Adobe also faces new criticism for allowing generative AI images created using any tool to be included within its stock image portfolio. The company has used some of those images to train Firefly, as Bloomberg reported Friday.

  • Adobe says it had explained it would include some AI-generated images in Adobe Stock in a blog post.
  • It later acknowledged in some Discord forums that it used some AI-generated images from Adobe Stock to train Firefly — a practice that had been hotly debated within Adobe.
  • At one point, Adobe had considered excluding AI-generated images from Firefly's training data, but decided against doing so, and has no current plan to change how it trains its models.
  • For its part, Adobe says it can't practically determine whether a particular image in a training data set uses generative AI or not, since the technology is increasingly used at various stages in the capture of photographs and the creation of images and videos.

What's next: Support for third-party models doesn't reflect a shift away from Firefly, Belsky said, adding that Firefly will expand to support for videos and 3D content.

  • Another big area of growth Adobe foresees is custom versions of Firefly trained on a company's own characters, style and other intellectual property.
  • "I think there is going to be more investment in Firefly," Belsky said. "I believe that the desire and need for commercially safe models will go up, not down."
  • Belsky added that the new approach also allows Adobe to support niche models, including commercially safe ones, from within its products.
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