Netflix Made an Anime Using AI Due to a ‘Labor Shortage,’ and Fans Are Pissed

Netflix Made an Anime Using AI Due to a ‘Labor Shortage,’ and Fans Are Pissed

Netflix has created an anime that uses AI-generated artwork to paint its backgrounds – and people on social media are pissed.

In a tweet, Netflix Japan claimed that the project, a short film titled Dog & The Boy, uses AI-generated art in response to labor shortages in the anime industry.

“As part of an experimental effort to help the anime industry, which is suffering from a labor shortage, we have used image generation technology for background images of all three-minute video footage!” the streaming platform wrote in a tweet.

The tweet drew instant criticism and outrage from commentators who felt Netflix was using AI to avoid paying human performers. This has been a central tension since image-generating AI took off last year, as many artists view the tools as unethical – due to training on masses of man-made art scavenged from the internet – and strive to further cut costs and devalue workers. . Netflix Japan’s claim that AI has been used to fill an alleged labor shortage has hit home to these widespread concerns.

According to a press release, the short was created by Netflix Anime Creators Base – a Tokyo-based center the company established to bolster its anime production with new tools and methods – in collaboration with Rinna Inc., a AI-generated art company, and production company WIT Studio, which produced the first three seasons of Attack on Titan.

The painterly and dramatic backdrops of cityscapes and mountain ranges are highlighted in The Dog & The Boy trailer. In a sequence at the end of the promotional video on Twitter, an example background – a snowy road – shows a hand-drawn layout, where the background designer is listed as “AI + Human “, implying that a supervised image generation algorithm generated the scene. In the next two scenes, an AI-generated version appears, crediting Rinna and several AI developers, some affiliated with Osaka University.

Demand for new anime productions has skyrocketed in recent years, but the industry has long struggled with labor abuses and poor wages. In 2017, an illustrator died while working, allegedly from a stress-induced heart attack and stroke; in 2021, the reported salary for low-level anime illustrators was only $200 per month, causing some to reconsider the career as a sustainable way to earn a living while having a life outside of work, buying a home or supporting children. Even the best animators are reportedly making only $1,400-3,800 a month, as the anime industry itself has exploded during the pandemic amid renewed interest in home streaming. In 2021, the industry reached a record revenue of $18.4 billion.

As the use of AI art becomes more mainstream, artists are revolting against the co-optation of their art by algorithms and the theft of their work to be used in datasets that create art generated by AI. In January, a group of artists filed a class action lawsuit against Stability AI, DeviantArt and Midjourney, claiming that text-to-image tools violate their proprietary rights.

Netflix did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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