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Survey Reveals 90 Percent of Writers Believe Authors Should Be Compensated for the Use of Their Books in Training Generative AI

Sixty-five percent say they support a collective licensing system to compensate authors for the use of their works in training generative AI

Illustration of electrical circuits in the shape of a human brain

The rapid growth of generative artificial intelligence technologies—computer programs that can develop new content from huge volumes of existing material—has raised both excitement and alarm in the creative industries. Many creators, including authors, are using generative AI tools to improve their creative process. At the same time, unchecked proliferation of these technologies, without adequate guardrails, poses a significant threat to human creators and the future of the arts.

The Authors Guild recently conducted a survey to fully understand and frame important issues around the use and development of generative AI technology. More than 1,700 authors from diverse backgrounds took part. We are grateful to all participants who shared their valued responses and assessments. The survey yielded important insights into how writers are using generative AI or might use it in the future, how they think they will be affected by its widespread use, and, to the extent possible in these very early days of the technology, how the writing profession might be transformed as a result.

Crucially, our survey found that 90 percent of writers believe that authors should be compensated if their work is used to train generative AI technologies, and 65 percent support a collective licensing system that would pay authors a fee for the use of their work in training AI.

Below is a report of the full survey results.

Survey Results

Use of Generative AI Technologies

Writers utilize generative AI technologies in various ways, including for grammar review, brainstorming and draft management, and marketing. Our survey found that:

  • 23 percent of writers reported using generative AI as part of their writing process. Of that group:
    • 54 percent use ChatGPT
    • 13 percent use GPT-4
    • 8 percent use Bard
  • Of writers who reported using generative AI in their writing process, 47 percent said they use it as a grammar tool, 29 percent for brainstorming plot ideas and characters, 14 percent to structure or organize drafts, and 26 percent in their marketing. Only around 7 percent of writers who employ generative AI said they use it to generate the text of their work.
  • Only 1.4 percent of the writers who said they use generative AI to generate the text of their work said that AI-generated text comprised 50 percent or more of their work; 89 percent reported that less than 10 percent of their final work included generative AI output.

Unauthorized Use of Authors’ Works to Train AI

To train their systems to generate new works, developers of artificial intelligences like GPT have copied millions of copyrighted works from the internet or illegallycompiled databases without permission or compensation, relying on a debatable theory of fair use under copyright law to do so. The inputted works are copied multiple times in the course of training, and the programs’ output often closely resembles the original copied materials. Our survey found that authors widely oppose the unauthorized use of their work to train generative AI:

  • 90 percent of writers who responded to our survey believe that they should be compensated for the use of their work in training AI. Similarly, 86 percent of authors believe they should be credited for the use of their books in training generative AI, with the majority of the remaining segment surveyed saying that they were unsure.
  • 67 percent of writers surveyed said they were not sure whether their publishing contracts or platform terms of service include permissions or grant of rights to use their work for any AI-related purposes.

The issue of contract clauses that allow a publisher or platform to license or use works to train generative AI technologies is one the Authors Guild addressed by releasing a model “No Generative AI Training” clause as part of an update to its Model Contract in March 2023. The clause can be found here

Views on Collective Licensing

A majority of respondents indicated support for a collective licensing system to compensate authors for the use of books, articles, stories, and other works used to train generative AI technologies:

  • 65 percent of writers said they support a collective licensing system that would pay authors a fee for use of their works in training AI, while 27 percent were unsure. Only 9 percent said they did not support a collective licensing system, with many of those opposed to it not wanting AI to use their works at all.

Concerns About Authenticity, Market Dilution

The sheer volume and speed at which AI can produce books and stories that compete with human-authored books threatens to devalue human authorship, raising the risk of substitution of human authors with AI, especially in certain genres. According to our survey, these are among the chief concerns authors have in regards to the proliferation of generative AI technologies.

  • 91 percent of authors surveyed believe readers should know when AI has created all or even portions of a work.
  • 94 percent think the publishing industry should adopt a code of conduct or ethical approach related to AI.
  • Furthermore, 69 percent of authors think their careers are threatened by generative AI.
  • 70 percent of authors believe publishers will begin using AI to generate books in whole or part—replacing human authors.

What the Authors Guild Is Doing

The results from our first AI survey substantiate our concerns about generative AI, and will help us frame the issues concretely in our ongoing advocacy for guardrails around their development and use. During our meetings with lawmakers last month, we emphasized the urgent need for legal and policy interventions that balance the development of useful AI tools with protections for human authorship.

Unregulated use of generative AI technology to produce books will seriously hurt the vibrance and diversity of what gets published in the future. And this will invariably affect the quality of ideas and expression that are so crucial to a healthy democracy. As Authors Guild CEO Mary Rasenberger wrote in her article How Will Authorship Be Defined in an AI Future?: “If we want to ensure that our literature and arts continue to reflect our current experiences and our imagined ones, we need to ensure that human creators are compensated and their work is protected.”

The Authors Guild recently conducted a new survey of U.S. author incomes, with preliminary results showing that full-time authors earned a median annual income from writing-related activities of $23,329 in 2022, of which an average of $12,000 was from their books. All authors, including part-time authors, earned a median writing income of $8,500 in 2022, and just $2,800 from books. The likely saturation of book markets with AI-generated works will undoubtedly push incomes down even further, forcing even more writers out of the profession, which in turn will lead to a devastating loss of voices and unique perspectives—the opposite of what we need in these uncertain times. This is not a future anyone wants.

Click here to learn more about our advocacy on artificial intelligence issues.

About the Authors Guild and Authors Guild Foundation 

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.