Writers with placards on AI at a WGGB protest in Leicester Square

Writers and AI

Read Writers and AI – A policy position statement here

65% of respondents to a recent WGGB survey said they believed that the increased use of AI will reduce their income from writing, whilst 61% were worried that AI could replace jobs in their craft area(s).

This comes on top of an early impact assessment by OpenAI which indicated that the exposure risk to poets, lyricists and creative writers was amongst the highest, at 68.8%. And a recent report by KPMG, Generative AI and the UK Labour Market, estimates that 43% of the tasks associated with authors, writers and translators could be automated, with humans ‘fine tuning’ machine output.

In response, WGGB has today published Writers and AI: A policy position statement outlining the challenges caused by AI and the risks that go with it, as well as the potential benefits of AI to the writing profession – such as its use in detecting copyright infringements.

Current concerns about AI identified in Writers and AI include decreased job opportunities for writers, the suppression of writer pay, infringements of copyright and the use of writers’ work without their permission, plus lack of adequate regulation from the Government. 81% of respondents to the WGGB survey felt that writers should be paid a fee when their work is used by AI systems.

WGGB believes that while AI systems are not yet sophisticated enough to accurately mimic the standard of writing produced by professional writers this is a likely future scenario. However, the union does not believe that AI will ever be able to match the originality, authenticity, enthusiasm and humanity that professional writers put into their storytelling.

WGGB also believes that, if used in an ethical, transparent and responsible way, there are potential benefits – including allowing writers to diversify and increase their income streams and sustain a writing career.

Writers and AI makes a number of recommendations, which will help inform the union’s lobbying and campaigning work in future.

  • AI developers should only use writers’ work if they have been given express permission to do so – reflecting the view of 80% of respondents to the WGGB survey.
  • AI developers should maintain clear and accessible logs of the information used to train their tool to allow writers to check if their work has been used – reflecting 82% of survey respondents who said developers should be transparent about what data they have used in creating AI systems, including where they have used writers’ work.
  • Where content has been generated, or decisions have been made by AI and not a human being it needs to be clearly labelled as such.
  • Where AI has been used to create content, AI developers should appropriately credit the authors whose work has been used to create such content.
  • 59% of respondents to the WGGB AI survey believed that a new, independent regulator should be set up to oversee and monitor the expansion of AI and the union believes the Government should set up a new regulatory body whose remits specifically covers AI, applicable to all future and previous AI development work, so that writers and others are able to assert their rights regarding work which has already been used without their knowledge or permission.
  • The Government should not allow any copyright exceptions to allow text and data mining for commercial purposes. This would allow AI developers to scrape writers’ work from online sources, without permission or payment.
  • There should also be clear, accessible and affordable routes for writers to challenge the practices of AI developers and bring claims regarding the use of their work.

You can read the full text of Writers and AI here.

WGGB Deputy General Secretary Lesley Gannon said:

“There have been some incredible advancements in AI, but as with any new technology we need to weigh the risks against the benefits and ensure that the speed of development does not outpace or derail the protections that writers and the wider creative workforce rely upon to make a living.

“Regulation is clearly needed to safeguard workers’ rights, and protect audiences from fraud and misinformation. WGGB is proposing a series of sensible recommendations that will help protect and reassure the writing community, whilst allowing them to enjoy the benefits of this undoubtedly powerful tool.”

WGGB has also responded to a recent Government consultation, AI regulation: a pro-innovation approach and as a member of the Creators’ Rights Alliance contributed to its work in this area earlier this year, AI and Creative Work.

The WGGB survey on writers and AI, which was carried out in April 2023, received over 500 responses.

Above photo: writers at a WGGB protest in Leicester Square raise their concerns about AI (photo Em Fitzgerald)