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New Authors Guild AI Survey Reveals That Authors Overwhelmingly Want Consent and Compensation for Use of Their Works

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This past month, the Authors Guild conducted a new survey of authors on their views about generative AI being trained on books. This survey updates and delves a little deeper into some of the issues queried in the Authors Guild’s survey last spring (published in May 2023) on authors’ views around the recent commercial generative AI technologies. As authors have learned more about generative AI technologies such as ChatGPT, Google’s Bard and Gemini chatbot, and the use of books and articles in training, views have solidified.

More than 2,400 authors from diverse backgrounds responded to this recent survey, approximately 700 more than the May survey. We are grateful to all participants who took the time to share their perspectives.

The main takeaway from the recent survey—confirming authors’ initial reactions to generative AI last spring—is that there is almost universal agreement among authors that they should have control over the use of their works to train AI and should be compensated for that use. 

The survey also revealed valuable insights about how authors believe a licensing system should be structured and how royalties should be allocated between authors and publishers.

Below is a summary of the survey results.

Unauthorized Use of Authors’ Works to Train AI

  • There is not much that you can get all authors to agree on, even relating to their profession, yet the survey found nearly universal opposition among authors to their works being used to train AI systems without permission. Only 3 percent said that they thought it was okay for AI to use their books without consent or compensation; 96 percent of respondents said that writers’ consent should be required, and they should be paid if their works are used to build and further develop an AI system, and 1 percent said they did not know.

When you consider what a varied bunch U.S. authors are, representing the profound diversity of backgrounds, experiences, and views in our country, that is astonishing. It is very likely the highest level of agreement in the Authors Guild’s 111-year history.

Licensing of Works for AI Training

Authors expressed differing views on whether they would be willing to license their works for AI training and, if so, how they should be compensated. Authors’ willingness to grant such licenses depended largely on whether the AI company could control how the works are used in outputs generated by the AI system.

  • 38 percent of respondents said that they would be willing to license their work to AI companies to train AI if the author could control whether the company allowed use of the work in outputs and the company offered additional compensation for any substantial, identifiable use of the work in outputs. 33 percent said they would not be willing to license such uses, and 29 percent said they do not know.
  • 78 percent of respondents would not be willing to license their work for AI training if the AI company could not prohibit certain prompts (e.g., to mimic the author’s work) or significant use of the work in outputs.
  • A plurality of respondents (35 percent) said that compensation for AI training should be in the form of an annual fee for as long as the model is in use. 8 percent  said that a one-time fee would be sufficient. Respondents provided a wide range of amounts that they believe would represent fair and reasonable compensation.
  • The survey noted that publishers may in some cases possess the right to license authors’ work for AI training, and that in other cases it might be unclear. 47 percent of respondents said that if the publisher had been granted the right, it would be reasonable to split any royalties paid for AI training with the publisher on a 50/50 basis. 22 percent indicated that some other split would be reasonable, with most of those disagreeing with the 50/50 split saying that 90 percent would be preferable, followed closely by those saying 80 percent.

Effect on Market and Use of AI by Authors

  • 6 percent of respondents said that they are aware of having lost work to AI, while 50 percent said they do not know.
  • A significant majority of respondents (87 percent t) said that they do not use generative AI as part of their writing process. Of those who do, 33 percent use it for brainstorming plot, ideas, characters, etc.; 26 percent for marketing help; and 13 percent for structuring or organizing drafts.

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