Netflix Replacing Humans With AI To Create New Series And Fans Are Outraged

Netflix is in hot water as they announce AI used to illustrate backgrounds in a new show, despite artists in the genre suffering from low wages.

By Sckylar Gibby-Brown | Updated

Anime fans are furious after Netflix Japan posted a tweet promoting its new animated short called The Dog & The Boy and announcing that the background art in the short feature was generated by AI software, according to Vice. Netflix Japan claimed that the artificial intelligence software was used due to labor shortages amidst high demand for more anime content. However, this claim is only making people online more upset, as the anime industry has a long-standing reputation for underpaying its artists.

Netflix announced that the use of AI in their new short is an experimental trial intended to help the streaming platform pump out more anime content, for which demand has spiked since the pandemic began in 2020. While the tweet from Netflix Japan seemed to think that implementing AI technology into their new projects would be an exciting innovation that their followers would support, the streaming platform is currently facing major backlash from those who criticize the use of artificial intelligence, especially in art. Many people are expressing their rage in response to the post, believing that Netflix is using AI to avoid paying human artists.

Image-generation artificial intelligence took off last year, and many are extremely critical of the unethical development of the software. Image-generation artificial intelligence is developed by training the software on masses of human-made art that has been copied off of the internet, often without the artists’ permission. The continuing growth of AI is leading people to fear for artists’ careers, with many worrying that AI might replace human artists entirely—a fear that Netflix is feeding into by using AI to create the backgrounds in The Dog & The Boy

In fact, in the credits for the new short, Netflix attributed the background art to “AI (+Human).” This instance of a human name being reduced simply to “+Human” is causing outrage, as the credit implies that there was human interaction supervising the artificial intelligence, though the person did not receive a named credit. Artists on Twitter are finding Netflix’s use of AI to be a slap in the face, as the artificial intelligence is ripping off talented people who have spent years of their life honing their craft.

The anime industry has long been criticized for its unlivable wages, with some artists making as little as $200 per month while top-rated artists only make about $3,800. The pay rates for anime artists remain low, despite the anime industry continuing to grow, even reaching an all-time high revenue of $18.4 billion industry-wide in 2021. Critics believe that Netflix citing a labor gap as their reason to use AI-created art, despite the recent industry boom, is an excuse for the platform to not pay their workers a decent living wage.

Before Netflix’s use of AI in their new projects, artists have already begun to rebel against the advancing technology and the ethical dilemmas it causes. In January, a group of artists filed a class-action lawsuit against the leading AI developers Stability AI, DeviantArt, and Midjourney, claiming that the software violates their ownership rights.