8K Authors to AI Producers: Stop the Theft

Margaret Atwood, James Patterson, others demand compensation for work used to train AI
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 19, 2023 12:30 PM CDT
8K Authors to AI Producers: Stop the Theft
Author James Patterson appears at an event to promote his joint novel with former President Bill Clinton, "The President is Missing," in New York on June 5, 2018, left, and Author Margaret Atwood appears at the Glamour Women of the Year Awards in New York on Nov. 11, 2019.   (AP Photo)

More than 8,500 authors are asking tech companies to avoid using their copyrighted work to train AI systems, unless those companies are willing to pay up. "Millions of copyrighted books, articles, essays, and poetry provide the 'food' for AI systems, endless meals for which there has been no bill," reads an open letter sent to the leaders of OpenAI, Meta, Microsoft, Alphabet, IBM, and other companies, per the Wall Street Journal. Organized by the Authors Guild, it's signed by literary names including Margaret Atwood, Suzanne Collins, Jennifer Egan, Jonathan Franzen, and James Patterson, who say "it is only fair that you compensate us for using our writings, without which AI would be banal and extremely limited."

The Authors Guild says artificial intelligence threatens the livelihood of writers, who've seen a 40% decline in income over the last decade. A survey conducted by the organization found the median income for full-time writers was $22,330 last year. "If writers aren't paid to write, they can't afford to write," author Nora Roberts, another signee, says in a statement. "We [could] lose our literary culture ... the exchange of ideas" and "all of the things that are so crucial to a democracy," Authors Guild CEO Mary Rasenberger tells the CBC.

While some tech companies argue that information freely found on the web is fair game, the authors say many books used to train AI systems—which have proved "capable of quoting and imitating the authors in question," per Tech Crunch—came from "notorious piracy websites." In a statement, OpenAI counters that it respects the rights of authors and its chatbot, ChatGPT, is trained on "licensed content, publicly available content, and content created by human AI trainers and users." Rasenberger says authors are looking for tech companies to come to the table with solutions. Otherwise, legal action could follow. (Two authors have joined comedian Sarah Silverman in suing Meta and OpenAI over alleged copyright infringement through the training of AI.)

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