Several best-selling authors, including George R.R. Martin, John Grisham, and Jodi Picoult, have accused OpenAI, the creators of the now widely used ChatGPT, of feeding their works into the program, in an act of “systematic theft.” As the potential benefits and risks of AI continue to capture public attention, the future of writing has become a major concern.
Programs like ChatGPT allow users to create texts that mimic human language patterns and writing styles. To do this, the AI program needs to be fed a massive amount of text. The authors raising the accusations argue that their works have been used in this feed without copyright permissions.
There is no doubt that ChatGPT is a breakthrough technology, one that stirs mixed feelings in many professionals. While some feel that the technology signifies a new stride of societal progress, many are concerned with the program’s potential for rendering human authors, artists, and workers obsolete.
The discussion of AI’s uses and limitations has sparked debate throughout America’s classrooms and played a part in the infamous Writer’s Guild of America strike. As the use of AI widens and the technology gains proficiency, writers, in particular, are feeling a sense of job insecurity, creating tension not only between writers and programmers but also, between writers and their audiences.
The authors in the case claim that not only is OpenAI using their work without permission, but this illegal usage threatens their audience and work. As AI is used time and again to create art and writing, the ability to mimic the authors’ writing styles and plot structures has become a tangible threat.
It has been stated that AI-generated prequels, sequels, and spin-offs of George R.R. Martin’s best-selling series have been used to profit off the author’s work and writing style, even as he continues to write books for the series, “A Song of Ice and Fire”.
Additionally, the plaintiffs have cited evidence of the program’s explicit familiarity with Martin’s work, claiming that when prompted, ChatGPT produced summaries of Martin’s infringed works, including “A Game of Thrones” and “A Storm of Swords.”
“ChatGPT could not have generated the results described above if OpenAI’s LLMs had not ingested and been ‘trained’ on the Martin infringed works,” the complaint stated.
The lawsuit is trying to gain class-action status, as it claims to represent the complaints of thousands of authors who find themselves in similar ordeals. The authors are seeking to prohibit OpenAI from using copyrighted works without explicit permission. They are also fighting for $150,000 in damages per infringed work.
As AI generates novels, it destroys the key participatory contract of writing. These are sequels, variations, and entire books that, in essence, lack an author’s investment of purpose and thought process but maintain their style, creating a bizarre environment for both writers and readers.
Authors may have to rely on their readers’ dedication to the “real thing”, but is this loyalty reliable or even ethical? It seems that in today’s literary climate, many authors hold that readers are looking for accessible, entertaining stories, no matter who they’re by.
This view is corroborated by recent controversies over ghostwriting and reader dependability. Can writers ask their readers not to consume AI-generated work? It seems possible that their livelihoods may soon depend on it.