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UK Authors’ Union Advises Writers on Shielding Work from AI

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TL;DR Breakdown

  • The Society of Authors (SoA) advises writers on protecting their work from AI’s adverse effects.
  • The guidance covers contractual considerations, rights forfeiture, performance substitution, and data storage.
  • Global concerns over AI in publishing and the creative industries reflect the need for ongoing discussions and protections for writers.

The Society of Authors (SoA), a trade union representing British writers, has recently issued guidance to help writers protect their work from the potential adverse effects of artificial intelligence (AI). As AI technology continues to impact the creative industries, the SoA warns writers to be cautious about the contractual use of their original work by publishers and production companies. The guidance highlights various concerns, including the forfeiture of rights, the use of AI for performance substitution, and the storage and manipulation of writers’ work.

The SoA’s guidance on protecting writers’ work from AI

The guidance provided by the Society of Authors emphasizes the importance of understanding the contractual terms surrounding the use of writers’ work. It urges writers to be aware of their rights over their work or likeness and to avoid forfeiting these rights unknowingly. For instance, performers and audiobook narrators are specifically cautioned about allowing the copying of their voices, as sophisticated speech modeling systems could potentially replace their performances, jeopardizing their future work.

The SoA advises writers to carefully review the terms of use of their work, paying attention to storage duration, authorized access, editing/manipulation permissions, and mechanisms for reversing these terms if necessary. By doing so, writers can ensure they retain control over their work and protect it from potential misuse or exploitation facilitated by AI technologies.

Risks surrounding cloud storage

The Society of Authors raises concerns about the use of AI in publishing without proper consent. The guidance advises writers against allowing publishers to make substantial use of AI in connection with their work, particularly for purposes such as proofreading, indexing, translation, and fact-checking. The SoA questions the current level of expertise offered by AI in these areas and highlights the importance of informed consent before incorporating AI into the creative process.

The SoA warns writers about the potential risks associated with storing their work on cloud services. Such work can be accessed and used for the development and training of machine learning algorithms without the writer’s knowledge or consent. This highlights the need for writers to be cautious about where their work is stored and the potential implications it may have in the age of AI.

Concerns about the impact of AI-generated work

The concerns expressed by the Society of Authors reflect a broader worry among writers worldwide regarding the impact of AI on their craft. In the United States, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike has brought the use of AI to the forefront of discussions. The WGA has proposed regulations to govern the use of AI in projects covered by the guild, including restrictions on AI-generated writing or rewriting of literary material, the use of AI as source material, and the use of guild-covered material to train AI. However, the proposal has faced rejection from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).

Industry professionals have also voiced their concerns about AI in the creative industries. Screenwriter and TV producer Josh Friedman referred to AI as a “plagiarizing machine,” while actress and computer scientist Justine Bateman urged immediate attention to the issue. Bateman believes that addressing AI’s impact on the creative industries is crucial and warns that failing to act now could render future labor actions ineffective.

The global landscape surrounding AI and creative work varies. Japan, for example, clarified that using datasets for training AI models does not violate Japanese copyright law, allowing AI trainers to collect public data without seeking permission from the owners. This stance highlights the contrasting approaches to AI in different countries and the ongoing discussions surrounding the legal and ethical implications of AI usage.

AI should enhance work rather than compromise it

The Society of Authors’ guidance serves as a timely reminder for writers to be vigilant. SoA emphasizes the need for writers to protect their creative rights and understand the potential risks and implications of AI in the industry. As the intersection between AI and the creative arts continues to evolve, it is crucial for writers to stay informed, advocate for their rights, and engage in ongoing discussions to shape a future where AI complements and enhances their work rather than compromising it.

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