Artificial Intelligence

New AI technologies necessitate legal and policy interventions that balance development of useful AI tools with protection of human authorship.

Artificial intelligence machines capable of generating literary and artistic works and performing other fantastical tasks that were once “science fiction” are at our doorstep. Today, commercial AI programs can already write articles, compose music, and render images in response to text prompts, and their ability to do these tasks is improving at a rapid clip. A wide assortment of tools to help writers write are commercially available today and show great potential to expedite and improve many writers’ output. At the same time, once AI is writing good books on its own (which is not so far off), it threatens to crowd the market for human authored books.

AI-generated literary and artistic works, even in their most impressive form, are essentially mimicry of human expressive works. AI generative technologies (i.e, AI machines that are used to generate output) are “trained” on mass amounts of pre-existing works (e.g., text, images, recorded music), where the copied works are broken down to their components and rules and their patterns deciphered. The consumer facing AI machines available to date have been trained on works copied by internet crawlers without licenses or permission.

While AI-generated works might look or sound like human-created works, they lack human intelligence and feeling. AI cannot feel, think, or empathize. It lacks the essential human faculties that move the arts forward. Nevertheless, the speed at which AI can create artistic and literary works to compete with human-authored works poses a significant threat to both the economic and cultural value of the latter.

We are confronting serious policy issues about the future of creativity: Do we want humans or AI creating our literature and other arts?

The Impact of AI Technologies on the Writing Profession

Literary works generated by AI technologies could soon compete with human-authored works in the marketplace. Genre writing, which often follows discernible rules and patterns, may be the first to be impacted, but several other forms of writing are at risk. AI is already being used to produce certain types of rote journalistic articles, and will soon be used for more complex journalistic pieces, further eroding jobs and incomes in an increasingly beleaguered field. Pirates could also deploy AI technologies to evade the controls that ebook marketplaces rely on to identify infringement. AI also makes it easy to produce low-quality books that plagiarize popular books or to generate certain genre books, which, while not rising to the level of outright infringement, could nevertheless depress the sales of human-authored works. All of these scenarios boil down to a simple but profound problem: If AI is used to generate books and articles cheaply and almost instantaneously, how will the marketplace for human-authored works survive?

You may ask, why do we care if human authorship survives? Isn’t this just another disruptive technology that does what humans can do, only more efficiently?

Using AI to produce literary and artistic works differs from other uses of AI in one stark aspect. Human communities are bound together by culture—literature, art, music, and other forms of expression. While AI-generated works may supplant the markets for human-authored works, they will never be able to match the abilities of human authors to voice emotions, experiences, doubts, fears, and hopes, or to shape our understanding of the world we live in and the futures we imagine.

Need for Balanced Legal and Policy Interventions

The rise of AI necessitates legal and policy interventions that balance development of useful AI technologies while ensuring that human authorship is protected. We need to ensure that human creators are compensated, not just for the sake of the creators, but so our books and arts continue to reflect both our real and imagined experiences, open our minds, teach us new ways of thinking, and move us forward as a society, rather than rehash old ideas.

The Authors Guild has been actively engaged in legal and policy discussions surrounding AI and copyright. We have filed comments before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the U.S. Copyright Office, the U.K. Intellectual Property Office, and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). We have spoken at symposia of the U.S. Copyright Office and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and encouraged other domestic and international policymakers to protect human-authored works. We have also consulted with AI developers and others to develop proposals for initiatives that will ensure due compensation for human creators whose talents and hard work lie at the bedrock of AI development.