A group of authors led by the Authors Guild have filed a class-action lawsuit against artificial intelligence company OpenAI. The lawsuit was filed after the Authors Guild released an open letter in July 2023 calling on AI companies to protect writers from having their work used to train AI without their permission and compensation.
Maya Shanbhag Lang, president of the Authors Guild and a class representative said in a statement, “The Authors Guild serves to protect the literary landscape and the profession of writing. This case is merely the beginning of our battle to defend authors from theft by OpenAI and other generative AI.
“As the oldest and largest organisation of writers, with nearly 14,000 members, the Guild is uniquely positioned to represent authors’ rights. Our membership is diverse and passionate,” Lang continued. “Our staff, which includes a formidable legal team, has expertise in copyright law. This is all to say: We do not bring this suit lightly. We are here to fight.”
Authors unite against AI
The following seventeen authors are suing OpenAI: David Baldacci, Mary Bly, Michael Connelly, Sylvia Day, Jonathan Franzen, John Grisham, Elin Hilderbrand, Christina Baker Kline, Maya Shanbhag Lang, Victor LaValle, George R.R. Martin, Jodi Picoult, Douglas Preston, Roxana Robinson, George Saunders, Scott Turow, and Rachel Vail.
“I’m very happy to be part of this effort to nudge the tech world to make good on its frequent declarations that it is on the side of creativity,” Saunders said in a statement. “Writers should be fairly compensated for their work. Fair compensation means that a person’s work is valued, plain and simple. This, in turn, tells the culture what to think of that work and the people who do it. And the work of the writer—the human imagination, struggling with reality, trying to discern virtue and responsibility within it – is essential to a functioning democracy.”
Although the lawsuit is being filed by fiction writers, the Authors Guild has made it clear that their concerns extend beyond fiction writing. “We are pursuing protections and compensation for all writers, from poets to memoirists to biographers,” Lang said in an email to Guild members. “If you write nonfiction, as I do, please know that we have your back. This fight is for authors of every genre.”
While the Authors Guild is not entirely opposed to AI, they believe that it is important to have safeguards in place to protect the rights of authors. “We recognise that [AI] can be a valuable resource,” Lang wrote to members. “But it should be a tool human beings wield, not one that is weaponised against us.”