Artificial Intelligence

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

The Authors Guild believes that it is crucial for our culture and the future of democracy to ensure that our literary arts remain vibrant and diverse. Artificial intelligence machines capable of generating literary and artistic works and performing other fantastical tasks that were once “science fiction” are at our doorstep. These generative AI technologies, which can generate new content because they incorporated millions of existing literary and artistic works into the fabric of their software, will have a significant impact on the future of the literary arts and the writing profession, and it is imperative that we approach their development and use with respect for human creators and copyright.

To protect the future of literature and journalism, we must develop sensible policies and regulations governing the development and use of generative AI. We are specifically lobbying for laws, regulations, and policies that will:

  • Consent: Require permission for the use of writers’ works in generative AI;
  • Compensation: Compensate authors who wish to allow their works to be used in training of generative AI;
  • Transparency: Create transparency obligations for AI developers to disclose what works they use to train their AI;
  • Use in outputs: Require permission and establish compensation for authors when their works are used in outputs, or when their names or identities or titles of their works are used in prompts—whether through adding a new economic right under copyright law or as a sui generis right, or through a well-articulated federal right of publicity law;
  • Label AI-generated content: Require authors, publishers, platforms, and marketplaces to label AI-generated works and otherwise identify when a significant portion (e.g., more than 10–20 percent) of a written work has been generated by AI.

In addition, we are asking publishers to add clauses to their publishing and freelance agreements that will protect the quality of literary works. They should prohibit the following without the author’s prior written consent:

  • Training: Using or allowing the use of works for purposes of “training” AI;
  • Requiring use of AI: Requiring authors to use generative AI or to work from AI-generated text;
  • Narration: Narrating an audiobook by artificial intelligence technologies or other non-human narrator;
  • Translation: Translating a work into another language with artificial intelligence technologies or other non-human translators.

We have been actively engaged in legal and policy discussions surrounding AI and copyright. We convened a coalition of creator groups to meet and educate members of Congress and their staffs about the potential harms of new generative artificial intelligence programs to the literary and creative economies. We participated in the Copyright Office’s current listening sessions, and we are consulting with AI developers, creator groups, and licensing agencies to help develop proposals for initiatives that will ensure due compensation for human creators whose talents and hard work lie at the bedrock of AI development. We also previously 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), WIPO and dozens of other forum, encouraging other domestic and international policymakers to protect human-authored works.

On September 19, 2023, the Authors Guild and 17 authors filed a class-action suit against OpenAI in the Southern District of New York for copyright infringement of their works of fiction on behalf of a class of fiction writers whose works have been used to train GPT. Read more about the lawsuit and the reasons for it here.

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Read FAQs on Our Positions and Advocacy Around Generative AI

The Impact of AI Technologies on the Writing Profession

Today, commercial AI programs can already write articles, books, 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, the use of AI in place of human writers is right around the corner for many kinds of written work, and 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.

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. 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.

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