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May 17, 2023

Survey results: AI considered a threat to author/illustrator livelihoods

Artificial intelligence has been top of mind for the creative industries since the rise of automation tools, and last month the ASA conducted a survey to understand how authors and illustrators are using generative AI and their thoughts about the potential impacts on our sector. The survey results demonstrate that while a small minority of authors are using AI tools as part of their writing and illustrating process, there is overwhelming concern about the threat generative AI poses to already precarious writing and illustrating professions.

There were 208 responses to the survey in total. The most striking immediate insights are:

  • the respondents support transparency; AI-generated works should be identified as such, and 
  • the respondents believe that authors or illustrators should be compensated and credited for the use of their work in training generative AI.

The ASA is developing its position on artificial intelligence and is in communication with industry partners on this rapidly-evolving and daunting topic. We know AI is a major concern for Australian writers and illustrators and believe that urgent regulation is required. The Attorney-General will be hosting a roundtable on artificial intelligence and copyright in the coming year, and we will be using this survey data and ongoing member feedback to inform our advocacy on this issue.

Survey Insights

80% of respondents indicated they do not use generative AI as part of their writing or illustrating process. The minority who are using AI tools are using them for brainstorming plot, ideas, and characters (53%) grammar (47%), generating text/imagery (31%), help with marketing (31%), and help to structure or organise drafts (17%). These respondents also reported other uses of the tools, including research, generating first drafts from their own writing material, preparing query materials, and generating blog posts.

The most commonly used generative AI tools were ChatGPT (81%), and Grammarly (36%) followed by Sudowrite (22%). Overall, 78% of the respondents who use generative AI tools indicated that less than 10% of their final work comes from their use of these tools.

However, the majority of all survey respondents (74%) expressed significant concern about the threat of generative AI tools to writing or illustrating professions. 51% of respondents thought AI would negatively impact them and their future income, 24% didn’t know, 8% indicated no impact, and another 8% had mixed feelings. Of those with mixed feelings, some authors shared their concern for copywriting or design professions, but maintained that AI would not be able to replicate what human creatives are able to do.

Authors and illustrators were also concerned about the use of AI tools by publishers: 72% of respondents indicated that they are concerned that publishers will start using AI to generate books in whole or in part, replacing human authors or having authors edit AI-generated texts. We asked: Do your publishing contracts or platform terms of service include permission of rights to use your work for any AI-related purpose? 63% didn’t know, and 35% said no.

Overwhelmingly, respondents agreed that there should be a code of conduct or ethics in publishing related to AI (92%) and that readers should be made aware when AI has created all or portions of a work (92%).

87% indicated they think authors or illustrators should be compensated for the use of their books in training generative AI, and 80% believe authors should get credit if their books have been used to train generative AI.

However, when it comes to practical measures to rein in generative AI tools, responses were mixed. 53% of respondents said they would support collective licensing for AI training, 9% did not support collective licensing, 19% indicated they didn’t know, and 19% had mixed feelings. In the supplementary comments many authors expressed they would prefer an opt-out option. 

We asked: if a collective licensing system was created to compensate authors for use of their works in training AI, would you participate? 45% indicated yes, 19% indicated no, and 36% indicated they didn’t know.

We’d like to thank all of the authors and illustrators who took the time to complete our survey. If you are seeking advice, or would like to share any feedback and concerns about this issue, please use the ASA’s free member Advice service or contact Lucy Hayward, Marketing & Communications Manager, at [email protected]. We are keen to hear from you as we continue to monitor member views, and we will keep you updated on our discussions with industry and Government.