UK writers call for AI regulation in face of potential job losses

UK writers have called for regulation of artificial intelligence (AI) to prevent the potential loss of income and employment stemming from the increased use of the technology.

Trade body, the Writers’ Guild Of Great Britain (WGGB), today published the results of a survey of 500 members, which found that 65% of respondents are worried AI will impact their earnings, while 61% fear AI might replace jobs in their specific professions.

The WGGB is a trade union that represents professional writers in TV, film, theatre, radio, books, comedy, poetry, animation and videogames in the UK.

In response to these findings, and other recent studies, the WGGB has today 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 benefits of AI to the writing profession – such as its use in detecting copyright infringements.

Reflecting concerns in the US that have been voiced during the current WGA strike, the report also highlighted members’ fears of decreased job opportunities for writers, the suppression of writer pay, infringements of copyright and the use of writers’ work without their permission, plus lack of adequate regulation from the Government.

A majority of 81% of respondents to the WGGB survey felt that writers should be paid a fee when their work is used by AI systems.

AI is improving

According to the WGGB: “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. 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.”

The union, however, does support the use of AI in an ethical, transparent and responsible way, noting the potential benefits – such as allowing writers to diversify and increase their income streams and sustain a writing career.

Writers And AI: A Policy Position Statement makes a number of recommendations, which will be used to help inform the union’s lobbying and campaigning work in future.

Among these are that: 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.

Furthermore, 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 labelled as such, and where AI has been used to create content, AI developers should appropriately credit the authors whose work has been used to create such content.

AI regulation required

According to the WGGB, 59% of respondents to its survey believed that a new, independent regulator should be set up to oversee and monitor the expansion of AI and the union believes the UK 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 also not allow any copyright exceptions to allow text and data mining for commercial purposes. This would allow AI developers to scrape writers’ work form online sources, without permission or payment.

WGGB deputy general secretary Lesley Gannon commented: “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.

“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.”

The full text of Writers And AI: A Policy Position Statement is available to read here.

Read Next