April 4, 2023
April 4, 2023 (New York): The Authors Guild, the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit advocacy group for published authors, went to Washington, D.C., last week to educate members of Congress and their staffs about the potential harms of new generative artificial intelligence programs to the literary and creative economies and to lobby for legal guardrails that would mitigate the risks.
The Guild invited other organizations that represent creators in various fields to join the meetings, including the Society of Composers & Lyricists, the Graphic Artist Guild, Concept Arts Association, Professional Photographers of America, Artists Rights Society, and American Society for Collective Rights Licensing. Together, the organizations represented hundreds of thousands of creators and artists whose livelihoods face an imminent and profound threat from the proliferation of generative AI technologies.
Over the course of the week, the Authors Guild and its allies met with the offices of fifteen lawmakers, including high-ranking members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees (which oversee copyright), the Congressional Artificial Intelligence Caucus, and the Creative Rights Caucus. The groups also met with the Copyright Office, which is actively working on issues of AI and copyright. The Authors Guild used these meetings to advocate for compensation and credit for authors, creators, and copyright owners whose works are used to train AI machines. It also introduced preliminary drafts of possible legislative changes, such as enabling collective licensing for AI training and amending section 1202 of the Copyright Act to make stripping metadata and other identifying information from a work illegal, whether or not it’s done to induce or facilitate infringement. The Guild advised members of Congress and their staffs on various collective licensing models—such as those that are already used in the music space and for literary works in Europe and elsewhere—that would entitle authors to earn licensing income if their works are used to train generative AI.
“The future of journalism, literature, and the arts depends on policies that adequately incentivize human creators to continue working,” said Mary Rasenberger, CEO of the Authors Guild. “This really is an existential issue for human arts. We were very clear in our discussions with lawmakers that we support the ongoing development of AI, including generative AI. But we also wanted to educate them on how severely human creators and artists would be impacted if Congress does not act with speed to pass legislative safeguards for human writers and artists. We detailed the potential problems and presented a few ideas for legislation. But mainly we asked for help bringing all the stakeholders to the table.”
Generative AI includes programs that can produce text-based, visual, and audio works without (or with very little) human mediation. These technologies are trained on vast amounts of existing copyrighted works, such as books, articles, photographs, visual art, and musical compositions, generally without permission from the authors and creators. As a tool, generative AI is capable of revolutionizing the creative process, for instance by helping creators brainstorm ideas, organize drafts, and perform other functions to enhance artistic expression. But when used to replace human creativity, AI may incur steep moral costs. The speed and low cost of using generative AI to produce books, articles, visual art, and music creates the potential for AI-created works to flood the market and dilute the value of creative labor, as well as to replace human workers in many creative industries. Moreover, the outputs of generative AI programs are wholly derivative of the works they were trained on, lacking the creative spark inherent in human-crafted works. Generative AI cannot think, feel, or experience the world; it can only imitate the works that it has ingested.
“We are heartened by the positive response to our concerns and proposed solutions,” said Rasenberger. “Until now, most of the conversations on the Hill concerning AI have been in the context of national security and international competition. Our visit was the first opportunity many Congressional staff have had to discuss generative AI, and those we spoke to appreciated being brought up to speed on the issues. Most seemed quite empathetic and indicated that they wanted to help and work with us on protections for the creative industries.”
The Authors Guild and its partners will continue to lobby for legal and policy changes, including collective licensing for works used to train generative AI technologies.
With more than 13,000 members, the Authors Guild is the nation’s oldest and largest professional organization for published writers. It advocates on behalf of working writers to protect free speech, freedom of expression and authors’ copyrights; fights for fair contracts and authors’ ability to earn a livable wage; and provides a welcoming community for writers and translators of fiction, nonfiction, poetry and journalism. Through its educational and charitable arm, the Authors Guild Foundation, it also offers free programming to teach working writers about the business of writing, as well as organizing public events that highlight the importance of a rich, diverse American literary culture and the authors that contribute to it.
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