Thousands of writers from the New York-based The Authors Guild have hoisted a petition asking tech companies to pay them for their work if they were going to train AI on their books and other writings.
Over 9000 writers including Margaret Atwood, Michael Chabon, James Patterson, Dan Brown and Nora Roberts have attached their names to an open letter demanding that the CEOs of OpenAI, Alphabet, Meta, Stability AI, and IBM stop “stealing” copyrighted materials to train their AI systems.
They want the companies to obtain consent, credit, and fairly compensate writers for their work. Generative AI which is built on large language models, can churn out fiction (no, we’re not talking about AI hallucinations) or non-fiction in the style of writing it’s prompted to adopt.
In fact, it’s scary how well it can mimic popular authors in terms of language, plot and ideas. Take for example this five-sentence paragraph that ChatGPT was able to conjure within 15 seconds to the simple prompt “write 5 sentences in the style of George R. R. Martin” –
“In the bitter heart of winter, the harsh winds tore through the barren landscape, carrying whispers of a forgotten prophecy. Lord Alestair, a weathered ruler as unyielding as the granite keep he commanded, sat brooding upon his throne, a mantle of dread cast over his battle-scarred features. The raven arrived at midnight, its ebony feathers dusted with frost, bearing a message from the Eastern lands. “The Dragon rises once more,” it read, the ink barely dry, causing Alestair’s icy eyes to spark with a dangerous fire. Betrayal, blood and war awaited, and so began the age of the Dragon’s Reckoning.”
Sure, the wall of text above reads like a poor man’s version of the celebrated author. But many readers are not too discerning when it comes to the quality of writing—the popularity of 50 Shades of Gray is one of many examples that stand testimony to this fact.
Maya Shanbhag Lang, President of the Authors Guild, stated, “The output of AI will always be derivative in nature. AI regurgitates what it takes in, which is the work of human writers. It’s only fair that authors be compensated for having ‘fed’ AI and continuing to inform its evolution.”
The petition notes that the copyrighted books, articles, essays, and poetry have become the “food” for AI systems, for which “there has been no bill”.
The authors rightly claim that without their content, AI would be banal and extremely limited.
The potential of generative AI enabling the market to be flooded with mediocre, machine-written books, stories, and journalism is a major concern too.
The petitioners feel that in the future, young writers and voices from under-represented communities will particularly be hit due to the necessity of eking out a living by competing against AI content.