Jay Kristoff tweet warning against the use of AI generated images in cover art for Empire of the Vampire

Authors Band Together To Address AI Concerns in Publishing Contracts

"Money today could simply speed up the absence of any work at all in the future," the Society of Authors said in a statement.
Jay Kristoff tweet warning against the use of AI generated images in cover art for Empire of the Vampire
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In June 2023, the Society of Authors (SoA) advisory team released its first official guidance for authors on protecting themselves and their work from “the impact of new technologies,” noting that the emergence of artificial intelligence systems is “already having a direct impact on SoA members.” Leading up to the SoA guidance, and in the wake of it, authors across genres have banded together to discuss how to address AI concerns in their contracts, specifically that their work can’t be used to generate film and television scripts and other intellectual property and that the cover images for their books can’t use AI-generated art.

The Creators’ Rights Alliance, a collective of leading trade associations, unions, and organizations representing and supporting the interests of creators in the U.K., wrote in a statement, “We are concerned this current AI technology is accelerating and being implemented at pace, without enough consideration of issues around ethics, accountability, and economics for creative human endeavor. It is important that policymakers and developers ensure that any implementation of AI and the use of machine learning acknowledges the huge contribution our creators make to our creative and financial economy as well as our cultural well-being and, in doing so, provide them with robust protections.”

For creators to achieve their AI goals, it may be necessary to engage in collective action, like the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. According to the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute paper, “Collective Action on Artificial Intelligence: A Primer and Review,” the overall development of AI requires collective action, “as do efforts to ensure that AI development results in good outcomes for society, both because it requires individuals to coordinate their actions and because it is simply too large and complex a task for any single individual acting alone to accomplish.”

With this in mind, the SoA has provided authors with practical steps to protect themselves against AI. “It might be tempting to sell rights allowing copying of your voice to an AI company but bear in mind that doing so will help systems learn to imitate human speech generally, and you personally,” reads the SoA guidance. “Money today could simply speed up the absence of any work at all in the future.” 

It appears that authors are taking heed of this notice, too. In recent months, several creators haven taken to social media to warn others against exploitative publishing contracts and AI.

On X (formerly known as Twitter), historical romance author and former Seattle University School of Law contracts and IP professor Courtney Milan (Proof by SeductionHer Every Wish) wrote, “Authors need to be clear in contracts that nothing of theirs goes into an AI. Nothing. Period.”

Another romance author, Rebekah Weatherspoon (Cowboys of California series, Soul to Keep), echoed a similar sentiment, posting on social media, “Authors, we really need to put Ai clauses in our contracts.”

“Authors: we need to stand up with the actors. AI is ALREADY HERE in our work,” posted YA author Maureen Johnson (How I ResistZombies vs. Unicorns). “I just spoke to a Very Famous Author who has to remain nameless for legal reasons. They are held up in contract negotiation because a Major Publisher wants to train AI on their work.”

Another author, Kelly Yang (Front Desk series, Finally Seen), noted that with the WGA strike, Hollywood has gone to bat for creators everywhere. “Hollywood writers just went to bat for us authors,” Yang posted. “What are WE going to do to protect ourselves? We should ALL be putting a clause in our contracts to prohibit the use of our writing to train AI! (To essentially replace us).”

Book cover illustrator Leni Kauffman thanked authors who have been able to negotiate clauses into their contracts that restrict or ban the use of AI in their work, thanking author Jay Kristoff (The Lotus War, Empire of the Vampire) for “having it written into publishing contracts to not have any AI used for his covers.”  

Kauffman continued, “This is a fantastic way to support artists and creatives in the fight against AI. I hope other authors do the same!”

(featured image: Macmillan Publishers)

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Rebecca Oliver Kaplan
Rebecca Oliver Kaplan (she/he) is a comics critic and entertainment writer, who's dipping her toes into new types of reporting at The Mary Sue and is stoked. In 2023, he was part of the PanelxPanel comics criticism team honored with an Eisner Award. You can find some more of his writing at Prism Comics, StarTrek.com, Comics Beat, Geek Girl Authority, and in Double Challenge: Being LGBTQ and a Minority, which she co-authored with her wife, Avery Kaplan. Rebecca and her wife live in the California mountains with a herd of cats.