By Dr Miguel Ángel Serrano, President of EWC and Human writer.
The author reflects on the systematic violation of intellectual property by big corporations and how that is harming writers in three levels: economic, reputational and psychologic.
In the debates about the so-called Artificial Intelligence, it is more than usual to talk about the infringement of copyright by the alleged theft of thousands of books written by living authors. Other rights holders, as publishers, are also harmed, but I would like to highlight that, in the case of writers, these software systems, the writoids, are stealing from our very soul, from our efforts and dreams. Precisely because artistic and literary works are not normal products, but most of the tim the result of nights of reflection, insomnia, psychological turmoil, ecstatic ego-trips and a lunatic bet of the author (never knowing if his efforts will render money or recognition), this is not about money, only.
This is about a Human Right, intellectual property, being systematically violated by big corporations. This is not the place to talk about that, but I want to say, as well, that consumers are taken to a deceptive conclusion: using these “AI tools” is an innocent activity. It is not. Consumers and companies using these tools are playing with very probably illegal material.
It is important to understand that there is big psychological damage involved here, as well.
First, if a given writer’s work is stolen to train writoids that eventually can narrow or make miserable the writing business, he or she will suffer an understandable rage, even wrath. It’s important to signal that the perceived quality of the text compiled by writoids (not written, they are not capable of doing so) is due to the feed of great pieces of literature in the training data sets of these machines. Otherwise, they could probably compile only low-quality texts. But you need modern literature to sound like modern writers, don’t you?
Second, as professionals, we cannot condone this felony. If this is proved (and there are quite solid indications of criminal behavior), it is one of the biggest swindles in human history, because not only the works of thousands of novelists, essayists, academic writers, playwrights, and poets have been stolen, but millions of internet pages with the content of millions of users who were never conscious of the possibility of their opinions or photos being used to build a trillion-dollar business. We need to push authorities, on a local and European, or North American level, to properly investigate and punish these crimes. Once again, internet moguls present their products as fait accompli. But we need to stop this constant aggression against our rights. This is piracy in a never before seen extent. Enough is enough.
As a writer and creative director, I’ve suffered sometimes the theft of ideas or plots. And I can say that plagiarism and the illegal use of protected intellectual property is one of the most harmful attacks a person can suffer. Because it sucks from your imagination, drains your power and exhausts your possibilities to create. It’s outrageous. The theft can even boost the criminal’s career.
As Iago says in Othello:
Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls.
Who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, nothing;
‘Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.
These writoids make us poor on three levels: economic, as they are invading human capabilities in an ill-intended way and, most probably, have stolen valuable works; reputational, as they try to equal human literature to machine compilations; and psychological, as they harm our very souls.
Eventually, they convert every writer in an involuntary ghostwriter for these writoids. No contract, no money, no license, no purpose for doing things well. Just condemn us to living death.
Being against writoids is the right thing to do. Support us and spread the human word.