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Writer Wednesday: The Google AI Lawsuit

Hello and good morning authors. Here we are. It's the middle of another week and we are watching the zaniness unfold. Now for those of us who have been following the rollout of AI through ChatGPT and the very mixed sentiments surrounding it in the creative community, it's been one heck of a season. The controversy with AI is coming to head fast with multiple strikes in the entertainment industry across the guilds, to big five authors stalling in contracts due to the request that their works are not used to train AI, and now a massive lawsuit has been leveled against Google for stealing data from users to train its AI.

The Google AI Lawsuit

In a recent policy update, Google doubled down on their intent to use 'public documents' to train their AI.

Google uses information to improve our services and to develop new products, features and technologies that benefit our users and the public. For example, we use publicly available information to help train Google’s AI models and build products and features like Google Translate, Bard, and Cloud AI capabilities.

Many users felt this was still a step too far, as it represents another way technology continues to invade personal privacy. As an author who used to frequently use Google Docs for the convenience of hopping between devices with ease, this is troublesome and now I have to closer examine settings. But how long will this line hold and does Google truly honor that public vs privacy line? How are we, the user, supposed to know?

Last week, the Clarkson Law Firm brought a class action law suit to California Federal Court, alleging that Google, it's parent company Alphabet, and AI subsidiary DeepMind had been stealing everything ever created and shared on the internet by millions of Americans without their knowledge in order to train their AI products and Bard Chatbot.

Google has taken “virtually the entirety of our digital footprint,” including “creative and copywritten works” to build its AI products.

The Clarkson Law Firm filed a similar lawsuit against ChatGPT last month, laying the groundwork for the core issues surrounding AI in the current market.

The Root of the AI Debacle

It's a mess, and this will continue to be a mess because there are no standing regulations for the collision of big tech and entertainment corporations, which means the creators caught in the middle are currently floundering.

Google shot back at the Clarkson suit to highlight that exact glaring oversight.

"American law supports using public information to create new beneficial uses, and we look forward to refuting these baseless claims."

Until the industry sits down and thoroughly hashes out a baseline of operations and barriers for AI inclusion or exclusion, prepare for some shakeups. There is a very legitimate fear for screen writers of their jobs being pinched off at the ankles as company heads experiment with using AI to create rudimentary scripts. Why pay writers to lay the ground work when you can strip an entire field with churned out scripts that scrape from everything already out there? There's no rules against it, and despite it squeezing all creativity and life out of a project, it saves money doesn't it? From a writer's stand point, this is a true nightmare scenario, but what about the audience?

Would an audience continue to consume media that was mostly produced through AI? Would they even notice? Would they care enough to push for more creativity?

The early rumblings from the indie author community were mixed with many seeing positive aspects of ChatGPT to make the process of creation smoother and faster, however, the issues of data scraping and the lack of laws and protections for data and documents remain problematic for many. Whether the lawsuits against ChatGPT and Google move forward, it is focusing a more critical eye on the issue and may be the kick in the pants lawmakers need to create much needed operating laws for AI. I, for one, will be keeping an eye on how this suit develops.

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