Someone shines a flashlight on a person stealing books

Authors Guild Issues Open Letter To AI Leaders Asking Them To Stop Stealing Writers’ Work

The Authors Guild has issued an open letter to generative artificial intelligence leaders, asking them to stop stealing writers’ work to train their AI systems. Countless authors have been shocked and infuriated to learn that their copyrighted works were secretly taken and utilized to train generative AI systems from OpenAI, Meta, and Bloomberg. Revelations that these companies gained access to tens of thousands of writers’ works through pirating and then fed them into their AI machines have sparked multiple lawsuits.

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Before penning the open letter, the Authors Guild had joined several famous authors, including George R. R. Martin and Jodi Picoult, in a class action lawsuit against OpenAI. Sarah Silverman, Christopher Golden, and Richard Kadrey have also filed a lawsuit against OpenAI and Meta. The suits allege these companies illegally stole writers’ copyrighted work without consent or compensation.

Additionally, since the generative machines were trained using copyrighted works and cannot produce output without drawing from these works, the lawsuits allege the systems constitute copyright infringement.

As search tools become available for authors to search datasets used to train AI, many writers are just now learning that their works were also stolen, meaning further lawsuits could be forthcoming. OpenAI and Meta have tried to use the fair use policy to defend stealing the writers’ work and claimed that because the AI’s output doesn’t resemble works from the authors, it doesn’t violate copyright. It certainly opens up a very complicated discussion of copyright law’s intricacies and potential limitations. However, it doesn’t change the fact that these companies are using thousands of authors’ works without consent, credit, or compensation, and that’s what this open letter seeks to address.

Over 15,000 writers sign Authors Guild letter to AI leaders

The Authors Guild’s open letter is directed to the leaders in the AI industry, including the CEOs of OpenAI, Alphabet, Meta, Stability AI, IBM, and Microsoft. It has racked up over 15,000 signatures from authors such as Philip Pullman, Jodi Picoult, Suzanne Collins, Margaret Atwood, and Ann Napolitano. Meanwhile, the letter succinctly explains everything wrong with these AI companies using writers’ work. Considering the sheer quantity of work being used to train AI, it’s clear that these systems wouldn’t exist without them. If AI owes its existence and advanced output abilities to these writers and these companies have billions of dollars to spend on developing AI, it only follows that these writers should be fairly compensated for their contribution.

The letter also explains that even if OpenAI and Meta use the fair use policy, it doesn’t change that they obtained access to these works through piracy. The letter states, “No court would excuse copying illegally sourced works as fair use.” Meanwhile, these AI systems created with writers’ works also threaten the writing industry. Writers are already underpaid, with the letter highlighting that the average income for full-time writers in 2022 was a shockingly low $23,000. Their profession is further threatened by AI-written books flooding the market with inaccurate and dangerous works that drown out works from actual writers and professionals.

The letter ends with a call to action for AI leaders to “mitigate the damage” AI causes writers by seeking permission to use writers’ works to train AI, compensating all writers (past and present) whose work has been used to train AI, and compensating writers for their work being used in AI output, whether it infringes on copyright or not. With all the damage that AI has already caused writers, and the distress it has put countless authors through who found their works had been stolen, adhering to these demands would be the absolute least that AI companies can do to demonstrate some level of respect and desire to protect writers and their profession.

(featured image: erhui1979 / Getty)


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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.