"It’s been eight years since the Authors Guild was thoroughly and totally
embarrassed by losing its big lawsuit against Google over the Google Books
scanning project. I guess they’re missing the feeling of embarrassment, as
they’ve filed what is effectively the same damn suit against OpenAI over that
company’s book scanning.
Now, I know, some folks are going to insist that this is somehow different,
that AI makes things different, but if anything, I’d argue that the case
against OpenAI is significantly weaker than the one against Google. In the case
of Google, the company was actually showing snippets of the works. With OpenAI,
its book scanning is only for the sake of training the AI. The AI systems are
doing the equivalent of reading the books, but never displaying them, just
learning from them.
The process is indistinguishable from how humans learn: they read books, and
retain some details, and if asked to produce a summary of the work, or to
create a work “in the style of” an author, they do so by taking what they’ve
learned and producing an entirely new work. That’s all that OpenAI does as
well. And unless we’re going to say that reading a book and producing a book
report is infringing, then this case seems particularly pointless.
Now, this isn’t the first lawsuit by authors against OpenAI. We covered another
one back in July, but rather than just a random list of authors and a desire to
turn it into a class action, this new lawsuit is by the Authors Guild itself,
and has a ton of big names, including John Grisham, Mary Bly, George Saunders,
Scott Turow, Jonathan Franzen, and George R.R. Martin.
It’s not surprising that some of these authors are angry. Scott Turow (who had
been a lawyer) used to run the Authors Guild, and was the architect of its
failed attack on Google’s book scanning effort. He should have learned his
lesson, but if we’ve learned anything over it’s the last decade it’s that Scott
Turow’s hatred for the internet knows no bounds.
Some of the other authors you wish would be a bit more circumspect before going
down this path."
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics