Valve Does Not Want To Discourage The Use Of AI In Games

Valve Does Not Want To Discourage The Use Of AI In Games

Last week, there was wide speculation that Valve might be intending to ban games that use AI-generated content, following a post on Reddit that suggested the practice was not being allowed. However, this seems not to be the case — at least, it’s nowhere near that simple — following a statement given to Polygon from Valve itself.

Banning AI art never really sounded like a Valve move in the first place. The libertarian company has long sought to place as few inhibitions on what can be sold on Steam as is possible, while steering wide of ever engaging with any political matter. That’s why new release lists on the store are drowning in half-assed porn games and barely playable asset flips. Specifically worrying about the morality of a subject didn’t really sound like a Valve thing. After all, this is the company that has so far cleared a total of five Sex With Hitler games for sale on its store in the last year.

However, the megalithic company has delivered its customary distancing itself from a controversial subject in a statement to Polygon, in which Valve makes clear it has no desire to “discourage the use” of AI in games development, but instead suggests that perhaps currently existing copyright laws might do the job for them when it comes to AI-created assets.

The introduction of AI can sometimes make it harder to show a developer has sufficient rights in using AI to create assets, including images, text, and music. In particular, there is some legal uncertainty relating to data used to train AI models. It is the developer’s responsibility to make sure they have the appropriate rights to ship their game.

There certainly is uncertainty. Widely available AIs that generate art are mostly trained by scraping the internet for any and all images, without checking for copyright or ownership, and then regurgitating original images based on what it swallowed for free. There are many who see this as a violation of the copyright of the original image owners. (There are others who see copyright as one of the greatest failures of modern human society, and that all art is built upon that which preceded it.) Either way, it’s invariably enormous corporations profiting off the work of others without paying for it, that is in turn used by others to cut corners when creating their own projects.

So why did Valve reject the game of Reddit user potterharry97? (You can see how he created the game, and how much it looked like any of the hundreds of hentai games released on Steam in any given month, via a YouTube video he made about it.) Because Valve saw the game’s use of AI-generated assets as violating its current copyright policies. Today’s statement adds,

We know it is a constantly evolving tech, and our goal is not to discourage the use of it on Steam; instead, we’re working through how to integrate it into our already-existing review policies. Stated plainly, our review process is a reflection of current copyright law and policies, not an added layer of our opinion. As these laws and policies evolve over time, so will our process.

However, the Half-Life creator wants to be sure that people know it has no intentions of cracking down on AI-developed games. They say,

We welcome and encourage innovation, and AI technology is bound to create new and exciting experiences in gaming. While developers can use these AI technologies in their work with appropriate commercial licenses, they cannot infringe on existing copyrights.

So where does this leave developers wary of the submission process? Well, confused. Because there’s no clarity at all whether AI-generated art is in violation of any copyright law, because it’s yet to be tested in court, or given coherent legislation. Let alone that “appropriate commercial licenses” aren’t realistically possible in this area.

It’s also pretty unlikely to receive clarity in a hurry, because we’re in a rather unique situation: in all previous incidents of the internet’s offering ways to mass-duplicate other people’s copyright, it’s been us — the little people — able to download the products of the enormous corporations without paying. That was something the corps wanted shut down immediately, and they spent vast amounts of money buying the laws and sanctions they needed to ensure it would happen. But this time, it’s the corporations duplicating the work of the hoi polloi, so you can imagine they’ll be a little slower to worry quite so much about the unbreakable importance of copyright law.

Valve, meanwhile, just wants to keep its distance from having to have an opinion on anything. AI is good, unless is breaks some law or other, and until anyone’s any the wiser, they’ll maybe block what they spot just in case. Good stuff.

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