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Valve All But Bans Steam Games From Using AI-Generated Content

Game developers looking to distribute their playable creations via Valve’s popular Steam hub may have trouble if they’re looking to use AI during the creative process. The game publisher and distributor says that Steam will no longer tolerate products that were generated using copyright-infringing AI content. Since that’s a policy that could apply to most—if not all—of AI-generated content, it’s hard not to see this move as an outright AI ban by the platform.

Valve’s policy was initially spotted by a Redditor who claimed that the platform had rejected a game they submitted over copyright concerns. “I tried to release a game about a month ago, with a few assets that were fairly obviously AI generated,” said the dev, revealing that they’d been met with an email stating that Valve could not ship their game unless they could “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.” Because the developer could not affirmatively prove this, their game was ultimately rejected.

When reached for comment by Gizmodo, Valve spokesperson Kaci Boyle clarified that the company was not trying to discourage the use of AI outright but that usage needed to comply with existing copyright law.

“The introduction of AI can sometimes make it harder to show that a developer has sufficient rights in using AI to create assets, including images, text, and music,” Boyle explained to Gizmodo. “In particular, there is some legal uncertainty relating to data used to train AI models. It is the developer’s responsibility to make sure they have the appropriate rights to ship their game.”

Boyle further said that the company’s policies may shift in the future. “We know… [AI] is a constantly evolving tech, and our goal is not to discourage the use of it on Steam; instead, we’re working through how to integrate it into our already-existing review policies,” she said.

That said…it’s not exactly clear what AI generators would be safe to use in this context—given that most of the popular platforms are known to have used copyrighted material to train their algorithms. Valve’s policy could quite easily be read as a blanket ban on AI-generated material.

Valve has made it clear that it’s just trying to abide by the law and avoid getting sued: “Stated plainly, our review process is a reflection of current copyright law and policies, not an added layer of our opinion. As these laws and policies evolve over time, so will our process,” Boyle said.

Why It Matters

Valve’s decision to nix any game that uses problematic AI content is obviously a defensive posture designed to protect against any unforeseen legal developments in the murky regulatory terrain that is the blossoming AI industry.

A legal fight is brewing over the role of copyrighted materials in the AI industry. Large language models—the high-tech algorithms that animate popular AI products like ChatGPT and DALL-E—have been trained with massive amounts of data from the web. As it turns out, a lot of that data is copyrighted material—stuff like works of art, books, essays, photographs, and videos. Multiple lawsuits have argued that AI companies like OpenAI and Midjourney are basically stealing and repackaging millions of people’s copyrighted works and then selling a product based on those works; those companies, in turn, have defended themselves, claiming that training an AI generator to spit out new text or imagery based on ingested data is the same thing as a human writing a novel after having been inspired by other books. Not everybody is buying this claim, leading to the growing refrain “AI is theft.”

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Leah Sirama
Leah Sirama
Leah Sirama, a lifelong enthusiast of Artificial Intelligence, has been exploring technology and the digital realm since childhood. Known for his creative thinking, he's dedicated to improving AI experiences for all, making him a respected figure in the field. His passion, curiosity, and creativity drive advancements in the AI world.


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