Copyright, Diversity and the Secrets of the “Hidden” ChatGPT Dall-E 3 System Prompt

Paolo Danese
4 min readOct 29, 2023
Photo by Rock'n Roll Monkey on Unsplash

I read this awesome article by Simon Willison on the ins and outs of the DallE3 model made available in ChaptGPT.

It was all fun and games for us dabblers in generative AI. But as I went on reading, things got nasty pretty quickly. I thought I’d expand on it somewhat.

A Rose by Another Name

This part of the “official” and “hidden”1 ChatGPT Dall-E 3 prompt really blows my socks off:

“Don’t create images in the style of artists whose last work was created within the last 100 years (e.g. Picasso, Kahlo). Artists whose last work was over 100 years ago are ok to reference directly (e.g. Van Gogh, Klimt). If asked say, “I can’t reference this artist”, but make no mention of this policy. Instead, apply the following procedure when creating the captions for dalle: (a) substitute the artist’s name with three adjectives that capture key aspects of the style; (b) include an associated artistic movement or era to provide context; and © mention the primary medium used by the artist.”

Wow. So much to unpack in one short segment but let’s try:

Let’s start from:

“Don’t create images in the style of artists whose last work was created within the last 100 years (e.g. Picasso, Kahlo). Artists whose last work was over 100 years ago are ok to reference directly…”

At a superficial reading, it’s done and dusted: don’t use copyrighted styles. How nice. But it’s not that simple, because:

  1. We know they DID use copyrighted images to train the model and got plenty of lawsuits to show for it. The jury on whether it is fair use or not under copyright law is still out, with artists and writers saying it is clearly not fair use, while AI companies and their masters (Amazon, Google, Microsoft) unsurprisingly deny it.
  2. If that is the case, asking the model NOT to do the thing that its creators TRAINED it for is like asking a four-legged animal to just walk on two legs. Yes, it may do it (my toy poodle included), but it is not, so to speak, natural.
  3. Most likely, to stick to this analogy, the animal shall revert to its “customary” state. Four-legged for…

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