Authors Guild Explores New Licensing Model for AI Companies

The Authors Guild is seeking a novel approach to allow its members to offer a blanket license to artificial intelligence (AI) companies for the use of their content in building automated chatbots. The discussions are centered around a proposed fee structure for using works as training materials, as well as restrictions on the output created by the chatbots to prevent excessive borrowing from existing material.

Mary Rasenberger, Chief Executive of the Authors Guild, emphasizes the importance of proactively addressing the presence of generative AI. In an interview, Rasenberger highlights the financial support from renowned author James Patterson and reinforces the notion that there is nothing inherently wrong with the technology, as long as it is used legally and with proper licensing.

Under the envisioned model, AI companies would pay fees for both ingesting works and producing outputs that reference content. Talks are underway to establish guidelines that prohibit chatbots from imitating authors’ styles, using characters from other works, and creating book summaries.

Roughly 38 percent of the surveyed 2,400 members have expressed interest in participating in this opt-in licensing regime. However, there are still unresolved issues, such as whether fees should be linked to the length and popularity of the works.

The proposed platform, potentially named the “Author’s Registry,” would manage the distribution of licensing fees. The project would also involve establishing a board and an accompanying organization to oversee its operations.

Although the implementation timeline remains uncertain, Rasenberger assures that the necessary funding is available. She acknowledges the reluctance of AI companies to enter licensing agreements with authors and explains that the Guild’s exploration of a licensing deal is prompted by the potential argument that AI companies have no alternative but to rely on unauthorized materials from shadow libraries due to the impracticality of negotiating licenses with thousands of individual authors.

The Authors Guild, together with notable fiction authors such as George R.R. Martin, Jonathan Franzen, and John Grisham, previously filed a lawsuit against OpenAI, accusing the company of systematic copyright infringement. While the specific works used as training materials are unknown, the authors point to examples of ChatGPT generating summaries and detailed analyses of their novels’ themes.

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