Steam bans AI art games from sale over copyright concerns

Steam icon Gordon Freeman on top of weird AI art games that look creepy

Steam icon Gordon Freeman on top of weird AI art games that look creepy

PC gaming’s biggest video game marketplace Steam is blocking the sale of software that used AI art in order to protect against copyright violations.

Generative AI has become a massive problem for the art industry with the rise of software like Midjourney and Stable Diffusion. The software has become so prominent that small-scale game developers are using generative software to fuel their own projects.

In a post on the AIGameDev subreddit, a developer that attempted to publish a game using AI art revealed that Steam has blocked the software’s release due to its use of generative artwork.

The developer revealed that numerous assets in the game were “obviously AI generated” but they attempted to release the title anyways. As Steam has yet to release an official statement on whether AI art can be used or not, the developer believed it would be fine.

However, Steam swiftly blocked the game from releasing on the platform, citing “intellectual property which appears to belong to one or more third parties”. In a later email, Steam reportedly flagged “art assets generated by artificial intelligence” as an issue due to their unstable copyright status.

“As the legal ownership of such AI-generated art is unclear, 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 email allegedly reads.

After attempting to alter the game’s AI assets to seem less generated, Steam still refused to ship the game under the same conditions.

“While we strive to ship most titles submitted to us, we cannot ship games for which the developer does not have all of the necessary rights,” the response reads. “At this time, we are declining to distribute your game since it’s unclear if the underlying AI tech used to create the assets has sufficient rights to the training data.”

While the blocking of AI art is fine from a copyright perspective, Steam’s targeting of AI artwork does appear to be pick-and-choose. High profile games that use AI art are still found on the gaming platform. For example, Mundfish’s Atomic Heart uses AI art quite prominently, but that game is still available for sale on Steam. Squanch Games’ High on Life also uses AI art, and that’s also available for sale on the platform.

The copyright status of AI content is still a rocky subject. In the US, AI generated works can not be protected by copyright. Additionally, Japan has imposed numerous restrictions on AI art in order to protect the careers of artists.

Steam’s battle against AI art in games isn’t surprising, though. The PC gaming platform has long fought against predatory practises in video games, including blocking the sale of crypto and NFT games on the platform.

With companies like Ubisoft looking to heavily implement AI into their games, Steam might have a large battle on its hands. As for us? We’re in Valve’s court.

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