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May 29, 2024

ASA makes submission to AI Inquiry

The ASA has made a submission to the Senate Inquiry into Adopting Artificial Intelligence in Australia outlining the serious risks this technology poses to authors and illustrators and the unfair appropriation of their work, without consent or compensation.

There are undoubtedly exciting opportunities that will arise out of the uptake of AI in Australia. Yet, this revolutionary technology – if left unregulated – poses serious risks to creators.

The problem is simple: generative AI technologies rely on the creative and intellectual work of writers and artists, but AI companies have not sought permission for use of that work, nor offered payment. What’s more, the AI models which have gorged on creators’ intellectual property will then reduce the market for those same creators, as AI-substitutes erode opportunities for professional writers and artists, dilute their market, divert consumer dollars, and devalue content.

Creators are not anti-tech – this is an issue of fairness. Authors and illustrators have been locked out of the financial benefits of the AI boom when their works are essential to the development of this technology. They should not be subsidising the business costs of billion dollar tech companies. The appropriation of copyright works for AI training is unethical at best, clearly unlawful in Australia, and potentially unlawful in the United States.

Our submission is that the Government must take action now, while generative AI is in its infancy, to set ground rules on accountability, transparency, and fair compensation. Thus far, tech companies have built a new parasitic technology, generating their own wealth on the basis of work they have not paid for. It is clear that without government mandates, they will continue to do so, because they can. Authors and artists are disparate sole traders lacking resources and information. To date, their concerns have been ignored.

If this is not checked by Government, not only are we facing an abandonment of copyright principles, but AI companies will enjoy unfair market advantages by exploiting unpaid labour. A lack of AI regulation will further the unprecedented wealth of a few tech companies by syphoning revenue for content creation away from the creative industries in favour of the tech sector. We risk significant cultural harm.

Support for technological innovation and support for Australia’s creative industries are compatible, not mutually exclusive. When human creators are paid fairly for uses of their work, innovation can be promoted ethically and sustainably.

The ASA has called for:

  • Government to mandate transparency: creators should know if an AI developer seeks to use their work for AI training and must have the right to grant or decline permission. This transparency would also facilitate voluntary direct licensing and collective licensing arrangements and collaboration between the tech and creative sectors. This requirement might sit in new AI-specific legislation or in a new Code of Practice or be introduced into other laws.

  • Government to require all AI developers and deployers conducting business in Australia to rely on licensed content only for training, as a condition of doing business in Australia. To prevent unjust enrichment by the tech sector, and to support the sustainability of creative careers, creators must maintain control over the use of their works and receive compensation for their contributions to AI development.

  • Government to resist lobbying from the tech sector for a new copyright infringement exception that would permit the free ingestion of copyright works for AI training.