London: Top Publishing Organizations on AI Protection

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‘To protect the human creativity and knowledge that underpins safe and reliable AI,’ the UK’s publishers, authors, agents, and ALCS join forces.

Image – Getty iStockphoto: S. Hansche

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

The Entire Publishing Industry Is United’
A key development in world publishing’s response to artificial intelligence technologies, today (October 31), four of the United Kingdom’s most prominent publishing-industry organizations have issued an adamant message to the government led by the prime minister, Rishi Sunak.

The Publishers Association; the Society of Authors, a trade union; Association of Authors’ Agents, and the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (referred to by its initialization, ALCS) are making an appeal that points to the importance of this week’s AI Safety Summit led by Sunak’s offices—and outlines the critical nature of its mission.

In these four leading entities’ statement you can hear the sort of “tale of two technologies” debate that much of world publishing has had with itself over AI, the point being—as discussed onstage by Núria Cabutí, the CEO of Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial, here at the ongoing Sharjah Publishers Conference—that while much may be supported and accompanied by AI in the “back end” setting of publishing’s data and management positions, the creative input must be held strictly as a force and field of human creativity only, protected from incursions by the operations of AI programs.

Here is the complete text of the statement communicated today to No. 10 Downing Street by these four British associations:

As a society, we should support human authorship unequivocally. It is of the utmost importance that the government puts into place tangible solutions as soon as possible to protect the human creativity and knowledge that underpins safe and reliable AI. Human creativity is the bedrock of the publishing and wider creative industries. That creativity will be worth around £116 billion [US$140.8 billion] this year in the UK alone.

“We applaud the prime minister for convening the first ever AI Safety Summit this week and for positioning the UK as a facilitator for strong global action on artificial intelligence and it is right for the UK to seek to be a leading light in development of AI, embracing the many benefits it can bring when used responsibly and ethically as a tool. The publishing industry was an early adopter of AI and we fully recognize the potential benefits and opportunities it can bring to our industry with AI tools that help us enhance human creativity and academic endeavor by reaching our audiences, marketing our books and journals more effectively, and improving processes and systems. However, it must be used ethically and legally, and its use must be regulated.

“We need urgent confirmation from government to ensure that AI systems cannot continue to use copyright-protected works with impunity. Creative work—and industries like publishing that are built on it—can only thrive under the right conditions: a strong copyright regime, compensation, credit for authors and other creators, and rightsholders’ control. But those conditions are being undermined—and creative works devalued—by today’s unfettered, opaque development of AI systems, which have been designed using copyright-protected works used without permission or payment.

“We need acknowledgement of and recompense for the copyright infringement that has already happened—including the pirated Books3 database used to develop many high profile systems—and assurances that those practices will end. We need practices based on consent and fair payment to ensure that authors and rights holders are asked for permission and rewarded for the use of their works. We need to ensure that creators are credited when their works are used to generate derivative outputs.

“And we need transparency and attribution. An end to the opaque development of AI is long overdue. We can only ensure that with strong government support.

“This is an issue on which the entire publishing industry is united. It is vital that authors and rightsholders are protected by government as AI continues to be developed. We urge the prime minister to make a statement of commitment to protecting the value of human creativity, intellectual property, and publishing and the creative industries, while these new technologies evolve.”

Publishing Perspectives‘ worldwide readership in professional book publishing will be following with interest reportage from the British capital’s AI Safety Summit for clues as to how one of the most influential of the international markets is handling the complex issues around AI.


More from Publishing Perspectives on artificial intelligence is here, more on the UK’s Publishers Association and its work is here, more on authors is here, more on literary agents is here, and more on the United Kingdom’s publishing market is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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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.

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