Tuesday, February 21st, 2023 Posted by Jim Thacker

Sketchfab introduces NoAI and CreatedWithAI tags

Epic Games-owned online 3D model sharing platform and asset marketplace Sketchfab has introduced new NoAI and CreatedWithAI tags for content uploaded to the site.

On 23 March 2023, Sketchfab will change its terms of service to forbid any asset with the NoAI tag from being used as an input for generative AI programs, or to develop new generative AI tools.

Under the new terms of use, any assets created using generative AI that are sold through the site, or are made available for download under Creative Commons licences, will have to be tagged CreatedWithAI.

New terms of use to forbid use of NoAI-tagged models in developing generative AI art tools
While the recent wave of generative AI art tools opens up new workflows for creating art, the tools themselves open up ethical and copyright issues – and recently, legal issues for firms developing them.

The changes to Sketchfab reflect those issues, with artists now able to apply a NoAI tag to a model from the site’s Model Properties windows.

The resulting HTML meta tag that appears in the model’s webpage on the site can be read by web-crawling services, including those used to scrape web content to create databases for training AI art tools.

At the minute, that has few practical consequences: it informs the web crawler that the creator of the model does not wish it to be used to develop generative AI tools, but has no legal status.

However, Sketchfab has also announced changes to its terms of service to prohibit use of NoAI-tagged content “in datasets for, in the development of, or as inputs to generative AI programs”.

When the new terms of use come into effect on 23 March 2023, they will explicitly forbid scraping NoAI content from the site for use in this way.

The new NoAI tag is not assigned automatically to models uploaded to Sketchfab unless users enable the relevant setting in their account, but a prompt to do so appears beneath the Tags field.

NoAI tagging is not automatic, but nor is it hidden away
Sketchfab is balancing competing interests here: while many artists are opposed to generative AI tools as potential threats to their livelihoods, others have adopted them in their workflows.

In its online FAQs, Sketchfab notes that “the Sketchfab community has always been a group of experimenters, trying out new workflows and finding clever solutions to difficult 3D problems.

“While some in our community are not interested in using AI in their work or exploring models made with AI, others are dabbling here and there with AI, trying out new things to see what can be achieved.”

Models uploaded to the site are not tagged NoAI by default, although Sketchfab has made it pretty easy to do so: a link to add the tag is now displayed beneath the Tags field in Model Properties.

There is also now a toggle in users’ Account settings that automatically assigns the tag to all of the user’s previously uploaded models, and to any that they upload in future.

The new terms of use also include an explicit guarantee that Sketchfab will not license content on the site for use in developing generative AI tools, “whether or not your User Content is NoAI Content”.

Sale of AI-generated content still permitted, provided it is tagged explicitly
What will probably be more controversial is that Sketchfab is not prohibiting the upload of content created using generative AI tools, even for sale through its online marketplace.

Instead, if a “material portion” of a model has been created using generative AI, it must be tagged with a second new tag, CreatedWithAI, before it can be made available under the Sketchfab License Agreement.

The tagging rule also applies to models made available to download for free from the site under Creative Commons licences.

The new terms of use authorise Sketchfab to “take formal action on [behalf of buyers if it] knows or suspects that a seller has broken the terms of the License Agreement”.

However, the terms of use also make clear that “Sketchfab will not apply the CreatedWithAI tag to User Content; [the uploader is] solely responsible for complying with the requirement to tag [their] User Content”.

We’ve contacted Sketchfab to ask whether it will be actively trying to identify content that violates the new terms of use, or whether it will simply be relying on reports from its users.

Updated: An Epic Games spokesperson commented simply that “the Sketchfab team will reach out to users regarding potential … violations [and] also respond to reports of potential violations from the community.”

A more proactive version of the AI art policies of 2D portfolio sites?
Sketchfab’s stance on generative AI tools is in line with that of its 2D counterpart, online portfolio site and asset marketplace ArtStation, which is also now owned by Epic Games.

ArtStation introduced similar changes to its tagging system and terms of use in December in response to artist protests against the display of AI-generated art on the site.

On ArtStation, the decision to make NoAI tagging opt-in rather than opt-out proved controversial, with protests continuing for several weeks after the changes came into force.

So far, Sketchfab has not seen a comparable backlash, perhaps because, as its FAQs note, “most 3D workflows do not currently rely on generative AI programs”.

In that sense, its new tagging system is a proactive measure, rather than simply reacting to the existence of generative AI art tools that have already been developed.

As we have reported on CG Channel in the past, it may be possible to develop generative-AI-based 3D tools without the need to train them on large sets of 3D models.

However, if Sketchfab’s stance is followed by other online marketplaces – and if most users make use of the new tags – it would make it considerably harder to develop such tools without 3D artists’ consent.

Read Sketchfab’s blog post announcing the new NoAI and CreatedWithAI tags

Read Sketchfab’s online FAQs about its stance on AI-generated content

Updated 22 November 2023: Sketchfab has now updated its Standard license to make it easier to enforce the NoAI tag on models made available on the site for free.

Previously, only models sold through the site used the Standard license, while free models used a Creative Commons licence.

However, recent guidance from Creative Commons says that CC licenses cannot be used to restrict the use of content to train AI models if that use is permitted by existing limitations or exceptions to copyright law.

As a result, the NoAI tag would probably not be enforceable on CC-licensed models once they were redistributed outside Sketchfab, where the site’s own terms of service cease to apply.

Sketchfab has now updated its Standard license – which is enforceable outside the site – to encompass free models.

Find a fuller explanation in Sketchfab’s blog post on the changes to its Standard license