Plot Twist! Authors Battle Against AI-Penned Forgeries

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As if the book publishing and retail industry hasn’t had enough disruption and challenges since Amazon opened its digital doors in 1995.

Most recently, author Jane Friedman (and others) uncovered a disturbing trend: Artificial intelligence is now “writing” unauthorized books, sold under their name on Amazon and promoted via Goodreads (owned by Amazon).
It’s a stark reality that happened before AI, and is only amplified as AI can pump out these kind of “books” at an alarming speed and scale.
Jane, whose work I know and love via her newsletter, Electric Speed, is sounding the alarm.
Someone is harnessing AI to emulate her voice, and these machine-generated books are appearing on Amazon’s platforms (and they’re good… but not good enough).

Let’s pause and absorb the gravity of this.

AI is not merely influencing the way we conduct business or interact with technology, it has entered the sanctum of creativity and authenticity without having to bend to any of the copyright and AI laws that humans are beholden to.
This is not a novel occurrence (pardon the pun), though its scale is unprecedented.
Historically, the transformation of blog posts, articles, and other content into books has been a recurring theme (thieves of content is nothing new).
Protecting foreign rights and intellectual property has been a taxing endeavor for authors and book publishers for decades.
With diverse international copyright laws, authors have been grappling with unauthorized duplications and sales of their books.
I experienced this (and still do) with my two books, Six Pixels of Separation and CTRL ALT Delete.
ChatGPT and other AI engines now possess the capacity to mimic an author’s unique style if that content resides online (or through a clever prompt).

It’s a sobering thought and that should prompt us to consider the very fabric of authorship, originality and what to do next.

What if I decided to allow AI to write in my style and prose, so instead of having my work AI-created by someone else, I simply did it myself?
Is this any different than some of the celebrity authors who use ghostwriters (or even as co-writers) to pump out multiple novels a year?
Amazon’s responsibility in this matter is constrained.
Expecting the tech giant to monitor every author and their respective rights would be unrealistic and unfeasible.
The publishing industry is fluid, with authors frequently changing publishers or opting for self-publishing.
Amazon’s platform — and others like it — has democratized the publishing process.
From editing to layout to book cover design, the pathway to becoming an author is streamlined and a few clicks away from anybody.

This is a blessing, but also a potential curse as it opens the floodgates to a new realm of infringement and misrepresentation.

Ultimately, authors must now become the stewards of their work, proactively policing the digital landscape.
Google Alerts on my name and book titles regularly reveal my work being offered in unauthorized formats (and, this is almost a decade after publishing those books).
Jane also found these AI-generated books listed under her Author Profile on Goodreads (owned by Amazon).
Amazon and Goodreads have rectified Jane’s situation.
All of this underscores the challenge: A perpetual game of whack-a-mole that authors, publishers, and platforms like Amazon must engage in.

Here’s some more layers of complexity in this:

It is possible for two authors to have the same name.
It is possible for one author to use another author’s title (one author used the title, Six Pixels of Separation, to write a work of fiction, which was extremely frustrating).
The mirroring of existing book publishing problems just hit scale (Thanks, AI.).
AI has set off this strange scramble for data… and content and, when it comes to books, this pokes at the very soul of creativity and the power to control your authorship.

AI has now shifted from a tool to an active participant in our intellectual dialogue.

Ultimately, this isn’t about technology or algorithms.
It’s about the integrity of our intellectual pursuits.
The challenge is clear.
The solutions, less so.

And as we grapple with this new frontier, one question resounds: How do we preserve the human voice in a world increasingly echoed by machines?

This is what Elias Makos and I discussed on CJAD 800 AM. Listen in right here.

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