From marketing to scientific journals, GenAI images have started popping up everywhere as an alternative to human-generated images. However, their proliferation has caused people in creative industries to scramble as the new technology takes away opportunities that previously required years of experience. 

“Technological changes always cause disruption and that alters the current state of things. Obviously, in some cases it’s going to represent lower revenues for some artists,” said Javier Hernández Acosta, founder and principal investigator for the Center for the Creative Economy, over the phone. He commented that one of the largest problems with this technology is the correct use of intellectual copyright. 

Many of these systems are trained on already existing images, which has caused many artists to denounce their copyrighted work has been used to train GenAI models without consent or payment. AI companies have faced multiple lawsuits, including one from the New York Times against Microsoft and OpenAI, who has said it would be “impossible” to create useful AI models without copyrighted materials.  

Meta, Google, and Microsoft have argued that authors would not receive much money, that AI is like reading books, and that changes to copyright law would negatively impact small AI businesses, respectively, according to an article from The Verge

Alvaro Melendez, co-founder and CEO of machine learning company CRANT, and Hernández Acosta, also the dean of the School of Art, Design, and Creative Industry at the University of Sagrado Corazón, agree that the technology will have repercussions on the industry. They both note that AI will become a tool for artists, saying slightly different versions of the same quote: “AI will not replace humans, but AI will replace humans who don’t know how to use AI.”  

Some independent artists view GenAI to undercut costs associated with the creative process, such as concept design. Employment in creative industries across Puerto Rico accounts for 3.9 percent of total employment in 2023, a 30 percent increase when compared to 2013-2017, according to a report published by the Center for the Creative Economy.  

However, the same report estimates that over 2,200 creatives left the industry between 2016 and 2020, totalling only about 18,300 creatives remaining on the archipelago. The “creative ecosystem,” jobs are either directly creative or support creative industries, represents little more than 57,000 jobs. 

“It should be the agenda of the creative community and public policy to make sure that content creators are fairly compensated for the intellectual property they have. And if the platforms are not capable of demanding it, the state has to go and regulate it,” said Hernández Acosta. He questions how an artist will be compensated if a GenAI system is trained on a particular artist’s work and is later asked to make an image in that author’s style.  

Even though federal judges have denied the allegations that GenAI violates author copyright, they have yet to touch the central concept that using copyrighted works to train an AI system violates copyright on a mass scale. However, the belief that GenAI infringes on copyright has gained traction in international courts. A Chinese court said that an unknown genAI service infringed on the copyright of the Japanese hero Ultraman, according to Forbes

Like in many other places, AI has been pushed into multiple different systems across Puerto Rico. AI was used to monitor the activities of las Calles de San Sebastián for “security” reasons, according to San Juan Mayor Miguel Romero. Coincidentally, Medalla Light posted a GenAI image titled “Our SanSe, imagined by artificial intelligence.” The piece received negative feedback from the public and has since been removed from the beer company’s official Instagram. However, other GenAI images remain. Recently, the University of Puerto Rico presented the first “International Congress on Artificial Intelligence.” 

The Puerto Rican Senate recently approved the creation of an AI Officer, a position under PRITS. If the law is signed, it will also establish a Government AI Assessment Committee which will order PRITS to develop a public policy to cover the implementation of AI across several government agencies.  The text of the law states that no agency will be able to acquire or utilize AI after July 1, 2024 without being given the green light by the Assessment Committee. 

The AI Officer will have to make sure that these systems do not discriminate against any protected class, which has already been pointed out as a problem of these GenAI programs, according to Vox. An analysis by Bloomberg of images created with Stable Diffusion, a text-to-image GenAI model, found that the system “takes racial and gender disparities to extremes—worse than those found in the real world.”  

The Municipal Revenue Collection Center’s (CRIM) advertising and the Department of Health’s “Renueva” campaign are the only two instances that show people in their GenAI images. CRIM’s advertisements mostly show lighter-skinned people, while the “Renueva” campaign features a more diverse cast. 

“That’s a matter of the system, not us,” said Migdalia Rivera, spokesperson for CRIM, when asked about how GenAI platforms replicate biases. Rivera explained that D.D.A. Group, Inc. sends them the promotional material premade, then they upload it. To her understanding, “the criteria of race is not taken into account” when the GenAI images were created.  

The “Renueva” campaign’s images were created by using artificial intelligence filters “applied to static images to make them more attractive,” according to Lisdián Acevedo, a spokesperson for the Department of Health. She later confirmed they used already existing photos. 

One of these images features a group of friends of diverse racial backgrounds having fun at the beach. Another features two blue-eyed black women with their arms around each other looking straight at the camera. It is “standard procedure” for Department of Health campaigns to take into consideration diversity and inclusion representative of Puerto Rico’s population, Acevedo said. 

The publicity campaign, meant to convince people to renew their Medicaid plan before the federal deadline, also featured a television commercial. It was created by Tere Suárez, one of the main marketing agencies used by the administration of Gov. Pierluisi. We reached out for comments through phone and email but they did not respond. 

“We need to be conscious about our own bias and know that AI is biased on its own and that we need to intentionally think about our bias and correct,” said Melendez, also an expert on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) practices. He explained that many marketers have not thought about DEI practices, noting that replicating biases in marketing happens regardless of where images come from “because it is a human problem, not an AI problem.”  

A study by the United Nations, republished by Marea Ecologista, shows that GenAI systems replicate gender stereotypes.  

If the data used to train a GenAI system already shows a racial or ethnic bias, the system will replicate it, Melendez continued. Even though these systems have improved when it comes to this problem, they are by no means perfect, he explained.  

Editorial Note: We found the GenAI images used by the Dept. of Health in between publishing the first and second part of this series. 

Part 1: Puerto Rico Government Has Slowly Incorporated GenAI Images into their Marketing

Por Carlos Berrios Polanco

Independent photojournalist and writer. Worked as Caribbean and Puerto Rico correspondent for Latino Rebels.