Writers denounce 'inherent injustice' in AI not compensating authors

Nora Roberts, author of more than 160 books, signs copies of her new book "Blue Smoke" at Barnes & Noble in New York on October 21, 2005. File Photo by Laura Cavanaugh/UPI
Nora Roberts, author of more than 160 books, signs copies of her new book "Blue Smoke" at Barnes & Noble in New York on October 21, 2005. File Photo by Laura Cavanaugh/UPI | License Photo

July 19 (UPI) -- Bestselling authors from James Patterson to Margaret Atwood are joining more than 9,000 writers in signing a letter sent by the Authors Guild to the executives of companies leading the development of artificial intelligence technology.

Those who have signed the letter also include, among many others, the authors: Dan Brown, Jennifer Egan, David Baldacci, Michael Chabon, Nora Roberts, Jodi Picoult, Suzanne Collins, Jonathan Franzen and Celeste Ng.


The letter cited the recent Supreme Court decision in Warhol v. Goldsmith, which the Authors Guild said casts doubt on the AI companies' fair use arguments by rejecting it as a valid defense where the use results in a commercial substitute for the original work.

The organization is asking that AI developers obtain permission for the use of copyrighted material in training large language models and fairly compensate writers.


"We, the undersigned, call your attention to the inherent injustice in exploiting our works as part of your AI systems without our consent, credit, or compensation," the letter reads.

"Generative AI technologies built on large language models owe their existence to our writings. These technologies mimic and regurgitate our language, stories, style, and ideas."

The letter was sent to the executives of IBM, Microsoft, OpenAI, Google's parent company Alphabet, Facebook's parent company Meta and Stable Diffusion-maker Stability AI.

It was sent amid the growing popularity of products such as OpenAI's ChatGPT and Google's Bard as well as products from Sudowrite to Rytr are allowing people to generate whole books using A.I. technologies.

"You could rewrite the same sentence 100 times ... or you could make the computer do it," Sudowrite boasts on its website.

In a recent article in The Verge, journalist Adi Robertson described how she was able to use the program to pump out a whole novella over a weekend. Wired reported on another novella by Stephen Marche that it described as "required reading" for others who plan to use such tools.

Meanwhile, Lifewire warned that AI is writing books faster than humans which could "swamp the writing trade." Lifewire cited another report that found that more than 200 e-books on Amazon's Kind store listed ChatGPT as an author or co-author in mid-February.


The Authors Guild similarly warned of an onslaught of "mediocre, machine-written books."

"The output of AI will always be derivative in nature," Maya Shanbhag Lang, president of the Authors Guild, said in a statement.

"AI regurgitates what it takes in, which is the work of human writers. It's only fair that authors be compensated for having 'fed' A.I. and continuing to inform its evolution. Our work cannot be used without consent, credit, and compensation. All three are a must."

Authors Guild said authors have experienced a 40% decline in income in the last decade and that the median writing-related income for full-time writers for 2022 was a mere $23,330.

"If creators aren't compensated fairly, they can't afford to create," Nora Roberts said in a statement.

"If writers aren't paid to write, they can't afford to write. Human beings create and write stories human beings read. We're not robots to be programmed, and AI can't create human stories without taking from human stories already written."

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