Steam is apparently banning games that use AI-generated assets

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“We cannot ship games for which the developer does not have all of the necessary rights,” says Steam, as it seemingly bans games that use AI-derived assets.


It appears that Steam might be refusing to publish video games that use AI-generated assets. But it’s unclear just how far-reaching the ban might be, or how it could be enforced.

As highlighted by Simon Carless, founder of Game Discover Co, a reddit post from the start of June seems to reveal that a developer’s game was rejected because it used AI to generate art. The rejection note from Valve, screenshots of which have been posted on imgur, seem to indicate that developers need to own the rights to the data set the AI was trained on:

“After reviewing, we have identified intellectual property in [Game Name Here] which appears to belongs to one or more third parties. In particular, [Game Name Here] contains art assets generated by artificial intelligence that appears to be relying on copyrighted material owned by third parties. As the legal ownership of such AI-generated art is unclear, we cannot ship your game while it contains these AI-generated assets, unless you can affirmatively confirm that you own the rights to all of the IP used in the data set that trained the AI to create the assets in your game.”

The developer in question said that they initially submitted a “rougher version” of the game with AI-generated assets, with the intention of improving them later. After the initial rejection, they apparently went back and “improved those pieces by hand”, and received the following message from Valve:

“…we cannot ship games for which the developer does not have all of the necessary rights. At this time, we are declining to distribute your game since it’s unclear if the underlying AI tech used to create the assets has sufficient rights to the training data.”

The copyright ownership of AI training data sets is a hot issue right now. Getty Images took the owners of the AI image tool Stable Diffusion to court earlier this year, accusing them of using millions of the company’s images in its training data. This week, Unity announced it was launching two new AI tools, which immediately prompted developers to call for the game engine maker to reveal the data set used to train them, otherwise commercial usage of assets generated from the tools could be ‘incredibly dangerous'.

Valve has previously banned blockchain, crypto and NFT games from Steam, and now AI-assisted art seems to be its next target. But it remains to be seen how enforceable such a ban could be, seeing as it is becoming increasingly difficult to identify AI-generated art as the technology improves. Would Valve have to require developers to declare exactly which tools they used to make a game?

From the wording of Valve’s response, it seems that AI tools based on a legitimate data set might meet its criteria for acceptance, so presumably things created with something like Photoshop’s new Autofill function would pass. But it does raise the question of how Valve could possibly police the use of AI, seeing as it is finding its way into every aspect of technology. And as many have pointed out, plenty of games already use AI extensively on Steam, such as the entirely AI generated This Girl Does Not Exist.

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