Thousands of Writers Urge AI Companies to Respect Intellectual Property Rights
In a united front, thousands of renowned authors, including Nora Roberts, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Michael Chabon, and Margaret Atwood, have signed a letter demanding that artificial intelligence (AI) companies, such as OpenAI and Meta, cease using their work without permission or compensation. This initiative is the latest in a series of actions taken by the literary world to counter the impact of AI technologies, which have caused concerns among writers regarding their livelihoods and creative rights.
Challenging the Financial Struggles of Writers in the Digital Age
According to a forthcoming report from The Authors Guild, full-time writers faced a median income of just $23,000 last year. Furthermore, between 2009 and 2019, writers’ incomes experienced a significant decline of 42%.
Against this backdrop, the emergence of text-based generative AI applications like GPT-4 and Bard has only intensified worries among writers. These AI systems scrape the web for authors’ content without consent or compensation and employ it to generate new content based on user prompts, leaving writers feeling undervalued and exploited.
Questioning the Need for AI-Generated Novels
Alexander Chee, a bestselling author renowned for works such as “Edinburgh” and “The Queen of the Night,” asserts that there is no urgent necessity for AI to write novels. He suggests that the only individuals who might require such technology are those who object to paying writers what they deserve.
Chee is among the nearly 8,000 authors who have signed a letter addressed to the leaders of six prominent AI companies, including OpenAI, Alphabet, and Meta. The letter requests fair compensation and dialogue between AI companies and writers regarding the use of their intellectual property.
Seeking Compensation and Collaboration, Not Litigation
Mary Rasenberger, CEO of The Authors Guild, explains that the organization aims to resolve the issue through negotiation rather than pursuing legal action. Rasenberger emphasizes that lawsuits are not only financially burdensome but also time-consuming.
However, some authors, including Sarah Silverman, Paul Tremblay, and Mona Awad, have taken the matter to court, participating in class action lawsuits that accuse Meta and/or OpenAI of training their AI programs using pirated copies of authors’ works. The plaintiffs’ lawyers are pursuing legal action, while the AI companies declined to comment.
Strengthening Contracts and Exploring Legislative Solutions
Literary agents, such as Gina Maccoby in New York, are actively engaging with publishers to include contractual clauses that prohibit unauthorized use of AI. This additional safeguard is being discussed to protect the livelihoods of writers and their clients. Although publishers have been receptive to the idea, enforcing such clauses remains challenging.
Detecting whether a book is included in an AI program’s dataset is no easy task. Additionally, industry organizations like The Authors Guild are lobbying for legislation to regulate the use of generative AI, but concrete regulations are yet to materialize.
The Road Ahead: A Blend of Litigation, Regulation, and Advocacy
The journey towards safeguarding authors’ rights in the age of AI is expected to be complex and multifaceted. Some aspects will be resolved through litigation, while others will require regulation and advocacy efforts. Experts believe that finding a solution will necessitate a combination of these approaches.
Various hearings have been held at different levels of government to address AI-related concerns, including the recent Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on AI and copyright. As the discussions continue, the hope is that AI companies will respond positively to the authors’ pleas and engage in meaningful dialogue to address their concerns.