The Writers' Guild of Great Britain, a union that represents writers in such professions as books, film, and TV, has revealed the results of a survey about artificial intelligence. Sixty-five percent of respondents said that they believed that the increased use of AI will reduce their income from writing, while 61% were worried that AI could replace jobs in their craft areas. In response, WGGB has 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 AI has to benefit the writing profession.

Current concerns about AI in the report include decreased job opportunities for writers, the suppression of writer pay, infringements of copyright and the use of writers' work without their permission, and lack of adequate regulation from the government. Eighty-one percent of respondents to the 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," its position statement reads. "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." It 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."

Recommendations in the report:

  • 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 labeled 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.
  • Fifty-nine percent 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 that 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.

"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," WGGB deputy general secretary Lesley Gannon said. "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."

A version of this article originally appeared in the U.K. newsletter BookBrunch.