A High Court judge has questioned the “credibility” of evidence submitted by a leading UK artificial intelligence (AI) company in a copyright dispute with Getty Images.
Mrs Justice Smith has struck out an effort by Stability AI, which is valued at $1bn (£790m), to have a case brought by Getty Images thrown out.
In her judgment, the High Court justice raised questions about the evidence provided by Emad Mostaque, the founder and chief executive of Stability AI, suggesting it may be “inaccurate, or incomplete”.
The judgment added: “The apparent inconsistencies between Mr Mostaque’s evidence and other available evidence casts doubt over the credibility of his statements generally.”
Stability is being sued by Getty, the US stock photography giant, for allegedly “scraping” millions of its pictures online to develop its AI image generation technology, Stable Diffusion.
On Friday, Mrs Justice Smith rejected Stability’s attempts to have the case thrown out on the grounds that it should not be heard in the UK. Stability has always insisted its technology was not “trained” in the UK, and was largely developed by a team from a Munich university.
Mr Mostaque, 40, had told the court: “I am confident that no Stability employee based in the UK has ever worked on developing or training Stable Diffusion.” Mr Mostaque and other witnesses for Stability also claimed its computing power was accessed entirely via the US.
Stability has yet to file a full defence to Getty’s wider allegations.
However, Mrs Justice Smith said comments made by Mr Mostaque in previous media appearances and YouTube interviews meant further investigation was needed.
In one interview in 2022, Mr Mostaque said the company had “fast tracked” the residency applications of Ukrainian and Russian developers to allow them to come to the UK.
Stability argued the developers may have been working on other technology. Lawyers for Stability accused Getty of “kicking up dust” and argued the evidence provided was “speculative”.
However, Mrs Justice Smith said Mr Mostaque’s prior statements raised “the possibility of developers working in the United Kingdom in connection with the development and training of Stable Diffusion”.
The judgment read: “These documents raise the spectre that Mr Mostaque’s evidence is either inaccurate, or incomplete; at the very least they suggest a conflict of evidence.”
Mrs Justice Smith said the issue needed to be decided at a full trial because of “unanswered questions”. The judgment added: “Disclosure may establish that Mr Mostaque’s evidence is unimpeachable.”
The legal dispute comes as Stability faces a shareholder revolt over Mr Mostaque’s leadership of the company. Last week, it emerged that Coatue, a New York fund and a major investor in Stability, had called for Mr Mostaque to resign.
Mr Mostaque is the company’s controlling shareholder and the company insisted he had been “instrumental to Stability’s success”.
Stability’s image generation tool has proved highly popular and is able to create highly lifelike images and artworks with simple text prompts.
Publishers and artists, however, have raised questions over whether AI tools are unfairly using copyrighted works to develop their technology.
Stability AI declined to comment. The case continues.