Reactions to ‘Artificial Intelligence’: Scribd Alters Its Terms

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

One of the world’s largest, most diverse subscription services, Scribd updates its terms of service amid the interest in AI.

Image – Getty iStockphoto: Yucel Yilmaz

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Adler: ‘Our Library’s Quality Sets Us Apart’
In a statement issued from San Francisco today (May 9), the subscription service Scribd has “clarified how its data may be used in an update to its terms of service.”

This update, according to the company, “emphasizes that Scribd’s users, subscribers, and partner companies may not utilize the company’s data for monetization or to train large-language models without Scribd’s explicit consent.

“Additionally, Scribd confirmed that it has not allowed any companies that train large-language models to use full content provided by its publishing partners, which is only available through its digital subscription service.”

This is just the latest, of course, in quickening reactions and evaluations of “artificial intelligence” in the publishing and content realm, several points about which were addressed on Monday (May 8) in the Association of American Publishers’ annual general meeting.

During that live event, AAP president and CEO Maria A. Pallante laid out a gratifyingly comprehensive overview of issues that the US and international publishing industry needs to consider amid the popular giddiness and occasional doomsday chatter around systems such as ChatGPT introduced by OpenAI.

Among the most pressing questions Pallante poses—each having bearing on Scribd’s unusually broad, sector-crossing offerings. From Pallante’s message to the United States’ publishers:

  • “Consider academic publishing. Each year more than two million articles are published in more than 26,000 research journals following peer review and curation that is painstaking, but essential to ensure integrity and confidence and research results. How can AI tools help with this mission? What threats does it pose?
  • “Consider education publishing. There’s an old saying that people are entitled to their own opinions, but not to their own facts. What are “facts” in the context of AI? A percentage of truth? How will learning be amplified or cheating be contained?
  • “Consider trade publishing. Do we as a society want AI-generated works flooding the Internet, potentially depressing the value of human authorship? If we can’t contain AI-generated works, what should be the ethics about disclosing their provenance?”
‘BookID’ Protections Continue

Trip Adler, the co-founding CEO of Scribd, today is quoted in the company’s statement, saying, “Our library is home to hundreds of millions of amazing, human-authored pieces of content, making it one of the most valuable and sought-after data resources.

Trip Adler

“Our library’s quality sets us apart, and to safeguard its content, we have outlined use cases in our terms of service that control how and when other companies can use our data.”

The company’s announcement says that Scribd “will continue to prioritize the interests of publishers that participate in its subscription service, its base of creators who upload their own content to the platform, and the entire Scribd community. This is in addition to some of the existing measures already in place such as BookID, Scribd’s automated approach to protecting copyrighted materials.”

Companies wanting to know more about Scribd’s changes to its terms of service—”which apply to Scribd’s user-generated, premium subscription, and SlideShare libraries”—are directed to contact datainquiries@scribd.com .

And even as this news arrives from Scribd, Kelvin Chan at the Associated Press is writing about how European regulators are working as fast as possible to respond to the latest developments in “artificial intelligence,” writing, “European Union officials working on groundbreaking rules to govern the emerging technology were caught off guard by AI’s rapid rise. … The EU’s AI Act could become the de facto global standard for artificial intelligence, with companies and organizations potentially deciding that the sheer size of the bloc’s single market would make it easier to comply than develop different products for different regions.”


More from Publishing Perspectives on Scribd is here, more on ‘artificial intelligence’ and debates around it is here, more on subscriptions in publishing is here, and more on copyright and its indispensable protections is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

Facebook Twitter

Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.