Magic Canvas - How is this legal?

Very first use of Magic Canvas.

How is this legal? I asked my son what he wanted to see and he said “Star Wars” so I typed it in. Glowforge says I can use any image that is generated commercially. So, off I go to sell Storm Trooper designs… SMH. Plus, it clearly looks like there is an artist’s signature in the top image. It’s not mine. Is it yours? @glowforge - do you have a legal statement saying you are granting us use of these images? Have you contracted with Disney?


Very first use of Magic Canvas.

Nice. AI generated images are a deep, interesting topic that has a lot of nuance. I’m sure your opinion will mature with time. For now, though, your reaction is pretty common. I’d suggest googling “legality of AI image generation” and grabbing a drink and a snack. It’ll be a while, this issue is much larger than Glowforge’s tiny corner of the internet[1].

How is this legal? I asked my son what he wanted to see and he said “Star Wars” so I typed it in.

See above, re: google. First, you’d have to identify what laws are being broken, and in what jurisdiction – it gets really murky when you consider local vs international judicial standards. When you know the answer here let us know, because it’s not as clear as you might think.

Glowforge says I can use any image that is generated commercially.

Yeah I heard something about that, but I haven’t seen anything in writing. Glowforge’s lawyers are pretty on point about stuff, so I suspect that there is a clause in there that says "it’s no on us if you break the law with any use of the Glowforge ", like every other aspect of using your laser. If you used the Glowforge to write threats on a sign and brought it to a presidential rally, you’d be in trouble there too. Same kind of thing, don’t break the law – with your laser or not.

So, off I go to sell Storm Trooper designs… SMH.

Yeah that would be unwise[2]. I doubt any assurance that Glowforge might give you would protect you from a clear copyright/trademark dispute. Tying this issue to the AI image generator is a red herring – this sort of issue isn’t unique to the magic canvas feature.

Plus, it clearly looks like there is an artist’s signature in the top image.

The image set that magic canvas uses to make its images have images that have signatures in them. This doesn’t mean much in terms of copyright or legality on its own, but it does seem … not great? Anyway, then the algorithm gets the idea that “you know, images often have these weird squiggly things in the corner, I’ll try to make something that looks like those squiggles”… and you get this. So the answer to your rhetorical(?) question:

It’s not mine. Is it yours?

… is that it’s nobody’s. It just kinda looks like a bunch of signatures that it’s seen in its (potentially) millions of source images that had signatures. It makes up some sort of nonsense and refines it until is says “yeah, that’s kind of what those other pics look like”. (not to anthropomorphize, but anyway)

@glowforge - do you have a legal statement saying you are granting us use of these images?

While GF may answer you, they don’t officially read this forum, so you might not want to hold your breath on any kind of a reply, and definitely wouldn’t hold my breath on a definitive statement from the legal team. It’s in GF’s best interests to leave it a little broad and vague here, getting in the weeds is asking for nit-picky legal issues (and posts)[3].

Have you contracted with Disney?

I’ll assume that you’re being rhetorical here, but in case you aren’t: Of course not. Come on, they’d have to work out deals with every copyright/trademark holder in the world by your logic[4]. Clearly not possible. Glowforge is a front end to a third-party image generator system (I suspect Stable Diffusion, but they won’t say), so I’m pretty confident that Glowforge has several layers of legal protection. They provide the system, if you ask it to make images that violate trademark and then sell them then that’s on you. Think of it this way: If a bank robber drives a F150 to rob a bank, does the bank blame Ford? It’s a bit of a rough analogy, but it’s sort of accurate here.

  1. Check out the other big players in this space: Stable Diffusion, Midjourney, Dall-E, Craiyon, etc. The Best AI Image Generators in 2023 | PetaPixel Glowforge is small potatoes. ↩︎

  2. Technically that’s a (bad) Darth Vader in the image you provided, but that’s not important here. :slight_smile: ↩︎

  3. Irony! :slight_smile: ↩︎

  4. And again, this isn’t really new. Glowforge allows you to upload any images you like, so if you wanted to bust out a Disney-related project you could have at any time. Tying this issue to the AI generator is still a red herring. ↩︎


You’re aware that no :glowforge: staff read this forum, correct?


There’s no need to speculate. This is all spelled out in the Terms of Service you agreed to when you clicked “Make Magic”


FWIW, just typing in “Star Wars” breaks the TOS, nevermind sharing it.


Lol I should have read the TOS before replying, it would have saved me a bunch of typing. You pretty much ended this conversation in far fewer words :slight_smile:

That being said, it is a little murky because it says you must not “attempt to create images that violate the rights of others”. IANAL, but I am not sure that the mere existence of the image is a violation of anything, it’s all about how it is used, yeah? If you make it and then don’t do anything with it, then it’s not doing much to violate anyone’s rights. Also, if you did “star wars parody” image generation, it might fall under fair use, which would maybe protect you in the US. Or something like “a picture of a grizzly bear in the style of the star wars universe” is explicitly protected – you can’t copyright a style (nuance!)

Something, something, Brandolini’s law, something something.


You realize there are several industries that have been made responsible for the (mis)use of their products now(USA)? (Depending on state legislative ideas)



The TOS is blissfully short and clear, thankfully.


Yeah I am sure there are specific cases, but they’re rare. Generally you have to prove gross negligence or intent. Not sure that would apply here, but then I’m no lawyer, so… Things are rapidly changing in this arena, it’ll be an interesting few years as this stuff gets sorted out.


Yes. Ish. They used to. But I realize it’s been several years since they were a small startup. Dan used to be in here all the time. I haven’t been for some time. I guess my post was more - I hope people really understand what this tool does - then - Glowforge is totally going to answer my questions with legal backup - . :wink:

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Didn’t even notice there was a terms of use there, let alone read it. So, there’s that. How many others watched the live, got really excited, and then jumped right in with Making. Bailey: “Everything you make with it has a commercial license.” Other AI generators have been prevented from populating some images. As @evansd2 says :


I agree that this seems like a questionable statement under the circumstances!


I suppose a more careful statement would have been:

Anything you make with magic canvas within the terms of service has a commercial license.


I actually even told my son as I was clicking the button of my mouse down- "it won’t actually give us SW images, so just be prepared. It will be similar to SW. " Him, “Yep, that’s okaaayyyyyyy.” As poof. SW. We just sat here stunned. Poof. SW. “Look mom, chewbacca version!” poof. SW. I’ve had several conversations with him on copyright/trademark and then he sees GF generating it for us at the touch of a button.


I’ve been watching the AI development for awhile now. I made a post in my group to the extent of: The Maker in me is excited for this feature because I can communicate better what it is in my head. The Artist in me is disappointed that GF released this feature not to mention the questionable legality of it. The images that trained the AI had to come from somewhere and I highly doubt GF paid all the artists of those images for their contribution to the field. Meanwhile, Magic Canvas is patent-pending.

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You should try one of the leaders in this space. If you think GF makes images that match what you’re looking for, try Midjourney, Dall-E or SD 2.0. Glowforge’s offering is less coherent (meaning newer models are better at interpreting what you’re asking for) than the most recent versions of those systems.

When GF updates the engine that drives magic canvas we can expect to see those improvements here too. It’s going to get interesting, from both a creative and legal standpoint.


So I’m replying before looking at any of the other replies.

“How is this legal?”

That’s an incredibly good question.
Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. This is not legal advice. I just spend way too much time consulting with attorneys and doing photo analysis. Also, I’ve battled Getty Images a few times (and won each time).

Some icons and imagery are copyright and/or trademark protected. E.g., Star Wars, Disney (although the original Mickey Mouse from Steamboat Willey just aged into public domain), Harry Potter, etc. It doesn’t matter if it’s not from the original artists and it doesn’t matter if it was AI generated.

Selling it will definitely get you in trouble. “For personal use only” is even questionable if it’s displayed somewhere other people can see it. (If you can claim Fair Use by satire or educational use, then it’s fair game. But that’s hard to justify for merchandise.)

Then there are all of the pending lawsuits. The big one to watch right now is Getty Images suing Stable Diffusion. (Getty Images is suing the creators of AI art tool Stable Diffusion for scraping its content - The Verge) On one hand, it’s really obvious that Stable Diffusion scraped pictures that are found in Getty’s holdings. On the other hand, Getty has an uphill battle proving that they are the copyright holder of the content and that it wasn’t acquired legally for AI training. (My personal opinion: it wasn’t acquired legally for AI training, but Getty’s claim of ownership is questionable.)

There are a lot of artists who are also getting angry that they own contents were scraped for training. Doing art “in the style of” isn’t infringement. However, when a search for the artist turns up more AI forgeries than the real images, then it definitely has a chilling effect on the art community. (Why release new art when AI developers will just steal it?)

A good example of this: generate a picture “in the style of Hirschfeld”. Not only will it generate line drawings in his style, it will even try to embed “NINA” in the lines. Copying the style is fine. Copying his trademark name embedding is infringement. (Sure, he’s dead. But his estate isn’t.)

Regarding the @glowforge developers: I don’t think they put much thought into this from a legal perspective. Even if they are not directly violating any copyrights or trademarks, they have released a tool to vendors (crafters) that explicitly enables copyright and trademark violations.


They did that 7 years ago with a 3D Laser Printer :slight_smile: Nothing stops anyone from scanning a picture, logo, etc and engraving or cutting it out in a variety of formats. Everyone who’s ever released a photocopier or camera has done the same thing.

It’s not the tool, it’s the use.


the difference between AI and the copier/3D/laser is that the copier/laser/3D is a physical tool that the end user must create the copy with. with AI, the user asks for something and the tool (the AI engine) has scraped images online and then used that to create the potentially infringing item.

so with the copier/laser/3D, the user has to do the work to create the infringing item. with AI, the engine does the work to create the infringing item. it’s a subtle difference, but there is one.

from a different perspective… if i create a copy of someone’s work myself vs if i hire someone to create the copy of someone’s work. if i hire someone to do it, the person i hire doesn’t get to say, “hey, someone else paid me to do it” and that gets them off the hook.


Does the ai recreate the art that is used or does it clip pieces to build?