International Screenwriters Issue a Joint Statement on AI

In News by Porter Anderson

Two organizations representing screenwriters join forces “to establish an ethical framework” for the use of AI in scriptwriting.

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

Otto: ‘Both National and Global Policy Arenas’
As world publishing’s trade shows such as last week’s Bologna Children’s Book Fair and March’s London Book Fair continue to see strong interest and turnout in programming about artificial intelligence, the Federation of Screenwriters in Europe (FSE) and the International Affiliation of Writers Guilds (IAWG) are pledging to work together to advance five principles that members of these organizations are presenting as important to an ethical framework for the development and use of artificial intelligence in scriptwriting.

Together representing some 67,000 professional writers in film, streaming, and television work, the two bodies’ memberships are operative in North America; Europe; Israel; South Korea; New Zealand; and South Africa.

These two bodies on Thursday (April 11) announced that they’ve agreed to work together to promote a set of five principles “to establish an ethical framework for the development and use of artificial intelligence in the scriptwriting process.”

For members of the book publishing business, this takes on even more weight, with reports in The New York Times and other media having revealed that the parent company of Facebook and Instagram at one point considered buying Simon & Schusternow owned by KKR—to gain access to training content for AI systems.

As it was reported by Cade Metz, Cecilia Kang, Sheera Frenkel, Stuart A. Thompson, and  in The Times, “At Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, managers, lawyers and engineers last year discussed buying the publishing house Simon & Schuster to procure long works, according to recordings of internal meetings obtained by The Times. They also conferred on gathering copyrighted data from across the internet, even if that meant facing lawsuits. Negotiating licenses with publishers, artists, musicians and the news industry would take too long, they said.”

The five principles on which Federation of Screenwriters in Europe and the International Affiliation of Writers Guilds are basing their position call for a resolution stating that these guilds will:

  • Affirm that only writers create literary material and that large language models (LLMs) or any other present or future forms of artificial intelligence (AI), cannot be used in place of writers
  • Work to create mechanisms for obligatory transparency and accountability and to ensure writers are informed if AI generated material is used to write, rewrite, polish or perform any additional writing services
  • Advocate for robust licensing mechanisms that require explicit and informed consent for the use of writers’ intellectual property in AI training data with a goal to ensure only intellectual property that has been licensed for such use be included in the datasets of commercialized LLMs, or any other present or future forms of AI
  • Ensure that only human beings are entitled to authors’ rights and recognized under copyright law in the context of machine generated material
  • Advocate for fair remuneration for the use of writers’ intellectual property in LLMs or any other present or future forms of AI
Davidson: ‘Not Diminish the Value of Our Work’

Carolin Otto

In comments on the release of this new joint statement, Carolin Otto, a German screenwriter who is the president of the Federation of Screenwriters in Europe, says, ““While we applaud the work of the European Union to enact the ‘AI Act,’ there are unresolved issues with respect to the unauthorized use of our intellectual property for training large language models, and uncertainty regarding authorship and copyright of machine-generated script material.

“We intend to voice our concerns in both national and global policy arenas, as well as develop standard language film and television writers can demand in their contracts.”

Jennifer Davidson

And for the International Affiliation of Writers Guilds, Jennifer Davidson, an Irish screenwriter who chairs that organization, says, “The members of the IAWG seek to build on the hard-won protections our sister guilds in America–the WGAE and the WGAW—were able to achieve during their strikes: namely that [AI] should be a tool to enhance our writing process, not diminish the value of our work or replace us.

“Last year, we campaigned at UNESCO and this year we will take our position to WIPO [the World Intellectual Property Organization]; support each other during collective bargaining; and invite representatives of the tech community to the sixth World Conference of Screenwriters in Galway.”

  • The Federation of Screenwriters in Europe (FSE) brings together 32 screenwriters’ organizations from 26 European countries.
  • The International Affiliation of Writers Guilds (IAWG) has 14 members from 12 countries.

More from Publishing Perspectives on issues in artificial intelligence and publishing is here, more on Europe is here, and more on writers in the international sphere 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.