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Category Archives: Digital Rights

Is AI the Bitter End or the Lucrative Future of Book Publishing?

Esquire – As the law fights to catch up to Big Tech, the future of books hangs in the balance. Are writers doomed by “the biggest rip-off in creative history” or could AI offer new ways of making a living? “I get hung up on the word scraping,” author R.O. Kwon says. “It sounds quite violent.” Last September, when Kwon learned that her first novel, The Incendiaries, was part of the Books3 dataset that some generative AI models were trained on at the time, she felt violated. She and other authors took to social media, lobbing anger, hurt, and frustration at the tech companies that had secretly “scraped” the Internet for data without consent from or compensation for creators. Kwon’s novels and others were poured into machine learning models, teaching them how to make “new” content based on patterns in the ingested text. (It’s this “generating” that makes generative AI distinct from other types of models that may only identify patterns or make calculations.) The years of work on those books added up: 10 years for one novel, 20 for a memoir, multiplied by the nearly 200,000 books found in the dataset. “It’s potentially the biggest rip-off in creative history,” says Douglas Preston, a best-selling author and one of the plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit filed in the aftermath of the outrage. In September 2023, 17 authors partnered with the Authors Guild, the oldest and largest professional organization for writers, to file a lawsuit alleging that Microsoft and ChatGPT creator OpenAI violated copyright law by ingesting books into their generative AI models. OpenAI and Microsoft, for their part, deny allegations that they infringed any copyrights. The tech companies claim that training their models on copyrighted content is equivalent to a person reading books to improve their own writing. The future of books—and perhaps of creative industries writ large in the United States—may come down to one judge’s definition of “fair use.” Words and who gets to use them are serious business. But an ecosystem around text-based generative AI evolved well before The Atlantic revealed the contents of key datasets. Large language models (LLMs) have been in development since 2017, and OpenAI’s GPT-3, the model that introduced generative AI to the mainstream, hit the world back in 2020. Now, tools, workflows, companies, industry standards, and, of course, grifts are in full operation, already shifting the way some books are written, published, and read. The technology has clicked right into the publishing industry’s recent trend toward efficiency, consolidation, and reader service—and seemingly away from sustainability for human labor. But some believe that generative AI could offer a path forward for writers at a time when it’s harder than ever to make a living through books. It all depends on the meaning of a few words.”

National Information Standards Controlled Digital Lending Working Group Stalls

Library Futures: “…I am stepping down because I believe that publishers and their affiliated trade associations are more interested in undermining that mission and the NISO process than they are in finding a solution for CDL that respects the rights of libraries, authors, publishers, and readers. The Working Group’s proposed standard, which offers best practice… Continue Reading

Is DRM evil?

The Long Tail: “EFF organizer, BoingBoinger and Wired contributor Cory Doctorow, perhaps the best-informed person I know on the subject of Digital Rights Management, argues that Wired should be taking a more activist stance against it: Wired seems to be a little soft on DRM these days; the recent Wired spin-off, Wired Test, featured page… Continue Reading

The Race to Save Our Secrets From the Computers of the Future

The New York Times: Quantum technology could compromise our encryption systems. Can America replace them before it’s too late? [read free] “They call it Q-Day: the day when a quantum computer, one more powerful than any yet built, could shatter the world of privacy and security as we know it. It would happen through a… Continue Reading

Your Personal Information Is Probably Being Used to Train Generative AI Models

Scientific American: “Artists and writers are up in arms about generative artificial intelligence systems—understandably so. These machine learning models are only capable of pumping out images and text because they’ve been trained on mountains of real people’s creative work, much of it copyrighted. Major AI developers including OpenAI, Meta and Stability AI now face multiple… Continue Reading

The US library system, once the best in the world, faces death by a thousand cuts

Brewster Kahle – The Guardian: “The US library system, once the model for the world, is under assault from politicians, rightwing activists and corporate publishers. Book bans are at record levels, and libraries across the country are facing catastrophic budget cuts, a fate only narrowly avoided by New York City’s public libraries this summer. In… Continue Reading

Libro for audiobook

“Libro.fm is an employee-owned Social Purpose Corporation that shares profits from your audiobook purchases with your chosen bookstore, giving you the power to keep money within your local economy. Whether you are paying for monthly membership, giving an audiobook gift to a friend, or buying audiobooks for yourself or your organization, Libro.fm shares the profit… Continue Reading

Reclaiming Control: The Internet Archive Empowers People. Gatekeepers Keep Suing

Tech Dirt: “…About a year and a half later, the Internet Archive was sued for providing books in this manner to the public. The suit was triggered by a short-lived, well meaning program that made books available to students during a dark part of the pandemic by lifting certain restrictions on how many people at… Continue Reading

Zoom May Use Your Calls and Data to Train AI

Cyber Kendra: “…Recently, the popular video conferencing platform, Zoom, brought in a significant change to its terms of service which has sent ripples of worry across its vast user base. With this revision, Zoom has brought under its wing the permission to use users’ data to train Artificial Intelligence (AI). While this has undoubtedly sparked… Continue Reading

It’s Time to Rethink Digital Ownership

Wired: “In his quest to watch every Nicolas Cage movie in chronological order, law professor and author Aaron Perzanowski confirmed that he owns nothing—and that you probably don’t, either.” This is a podcast that includes a transcript…. Lauren Goode: “And do you own that music in the cloud? Gideon Lichfield: Well, that’s an interesting question… Continue Reading

Cory Doctorow is a Bestselling Author, but Audible Won’t Carry his Audiobooks

Editorial by Cory Doctorow: “Audible is a monopolist. The audiobook giant – a division of Amazon – controls more than 90 percent of the audiobook market in most commercially significant categories. Audible built that monopoly the old-fashioned way: by cheating. Audible is part of the Amazon conglomerate. Like all tech giants, Amazon’s growth strategy was… Continue Reading

How to Tell If an Image Is AI Generated

How to Geek: AI photos are getting better, but there are still ways to tell if you’re looking at the real thing — most of the time. An AI-generated photograph is any image that has been produced or manipulated with synthetic content using so-called artificial intelligence (AI) software based on machine learning. As the images cranked… Continue Reading