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Valve is seemingly banning Steam games with AI art

Developers attempting to submit games with AI-created artwork on Steam have spotted a new warning message.
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Valve’s PC game storefront Steam has reportedly begun flagging games that utilise AI artwork, rejecting them from publication on the platform where this technology is detected. The issue was first spotted over on Reddit, where the ‘aigamedev‘ subreddit group revealed several instances of Valve issuing bans over potential copyright infringement. The news was subsequently surfaced by game industry analyst and historian Simon Carless on Twitter, in a post that quickly went viral.

Per details provided by Carless and the AI game developer subreddit, it appears Valve has issued a blanket edict that developers utilising AI artwork must first prove they own the rights to the art assets used to train the AI engine involved in the game creation process.

Creators are reportedly being hit with a notice that reads:

‘After reviewing, we have identified intellectual property in [Game Name Here] which appears to belong 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.’

‘We are failing your build and will give you one (1) opportunity to remove all content that you do not have the rights to from your build. If you fail to remove all such content, we will not be able to ship your game on Steam, and this app will be banned.’

Read: High on Life uses AI art and voice acting

Other users have also noted that text is seemingly being caught in the ban too, with Valve restricting the use of AI-generated writing for similar reasons.

Per reports on Reddit, multiple developers have been hit with these warnings, with the first instances surfacing from June 2023. Valve has not issued an official edict on the matter, but has allegedly tightened its stance in recent weeks, as a means to ensure games published on Steam maintain a sense of human creativity.

There are also legal ramifications, which are the more likely reason Valve may have chosen to ban AI-generated content on its platform. As a publisher, it maintains a level of responsibility for games shipped on its platform – and given that the legality around AI remains murky, it’s a safer option to ban it outright.

This stance would also align with Steam’s historic values – in that developers are not allowed to publish ‘content [they] don’t own or have adequate rights to’. AI-generated artwork is typically a slosh of images stolen from across the internet and forced into a new shape, essentially making it plagiarism on a mass scale – unless the AI is trained on content specifically created by an individual.

It’s important to note that Valve has not confirmed these updated terms as of writing, and reports of mass bans are yet to be fact-checked by official sources. Several games that utilise AI artwork have already been published on Steam, and remain live as of writing. Some sources have also claimed this is a hoax designed to discourage creators from submitting their AI-created works on the platform.

We’ll likely learn more in the coming days, as Valve makes its stance clear.

Update 3/7/23: Valve has now confirmed warnings sent to developers are legitimate, and that game developers must own the rights to content used to train AI models before games with AI artwork can be published on the platform. Read the article on GamesHub.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.