Author Topic: Amazon's ill-treatment of authors directly harmed by AI  (Read 640 times)

LilyBLily

Amazon's ill-treatment of authors directly harmed by AI
« on: August 09, 2023, 11:35:54 PM »
Jane Friedman's recent discovery of AI titles all supposedly written by her got a very nasty brushoff from Amazon initially. Since she has not trademarked her name, Amazon won't do anything about it.

https://janefriedman.com/i-would-rather-see-my-books-pirated/

Includes an update that Amazon reversed course, presumably because she's a well-known person in the publishing world.

The implications for the rest of us are rather dire.
 

Bill Hiatt

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Re: Amazon's ill-treatment of authors directly harmed by AI
« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2023, 12:05:38 AM »
The good news is that only those of us who are enormously successful would probably be targeted. It makes sense to try to use a well-known name, but a lot less to use one that isn't that well-known.

However, if someone tries that kind of deception, there may be legal avenues an author could pursue if Amazon refuses to act. I'm not familiar with the specifics, but there are a number of laws relating to identity theft as a crime. There are also laws related to false advertising. One would have to do research and consult a lawyer to see if there are available options under existing law.

Na´ve as this sounds, there may also be political options. If one is persistent, a state or federal legislator might be recruited to propose legislation to address the problem. One of my friends almost managed to get a change in the California public pension law to address a unique problem she had. The law didn't pass in the end because the administrative agency involved reversed itself and corrected the odd situation it had earlier created. That happened because one person spoke up. I'm pretty sure that, as AI becomes more of a problem, writers in general, even if unaffected, will be more than willing to join in a lobbying effort to correct the problem.


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Post-Crisis D

Re: Amazon's ill-treatment of authors directly harmed by AI
« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2023, 02:13:23 AM »
I see it as another good reason to have a website and a mailing list.  You cannot control what Amazon and others do on their sites and getting stuff like this situation remedied can be challenging.  That's why, in my opinion, it's important to have an "official" site where you can say, okay, these are my genuine books that I wrote.  If you don't see it here, I didn't write it.


Since she has not trademarked her name, Amazon won't do anything about it.

She should probably have contacted a trademark attorney instead of saying she doesn't have a trademark on her name.
Mulder: "If you're distracted by fear of those around you, it keeps you from seeing the actions of those above."
The X-Files: "Blood"
 

alhawke

Re: Amazon's ill-treatment of authors directly harmed by AI
« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2023, 05:21:21 AM »
Absolutely disgraceful. She's well known in the publishing world as a resource, hence the targeting.
No shame with thieves, I suppose.
 

She-la-te-da

Re: Amazon's ill-treatment of authors directly harmed by AI
« Reply #4 on: August 12, 2023, 08:54:23 AM »
I don't see it as identity theft so much as someone trying to cash in on a name before their account got closed. I'm sure there are a lot of people with her name, likely at least one or more writing in some fashion or other.

That's not to say I don't believe her name was used on purpose, but that's all that was done. Just because the books showed up on her account was only due to those lovely bots Amazon uses instead of people who might have thought this whole thing was suspicious.
I write various flavors of speculative fiction. This is my main pen name.

 

LilyBLily

Re: Amazon's ill-treatment of authors directly harmed by AI
« Reply #5 on: August 12, 2023, 10:45:11 AM »
It's theft of the right of publicity, or something like it. Actionable--but what if Amazon refuses to give Jane Friedman's attorney the names and contact info of the perpetrators? Yes, she can sue, but that's expensive. Many authors can afford to pay an attorney for a nicely threatening cease-and-desist letter, but the usual $20K for a lawsuit? Not likely to have that in their back pocket.

If Amazon doesn't stomp on this kind of fraud, copycats will use bots to do this to every author already on Amazon. Why should they not? Yet another AI mess in the making.

 

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Re: Amazon's ill-treatment of authors directly harmed by AI
« Reply #6 on: August 12, 2023, 11:57:34 PM »
Let's hope Amazon gives up that information if asked for it. Of course, if there is a lawsuit, Amazon could be subpoenaed. And yes, lawsuits are expensive, but that's the only way to deal with an actionable matter.

Perhaps a lawyer who realized this kind of behavior could be a trend might be willing to cut some early clients a break in order to be able to claim experience in this kind of litigation if it becomes much more common.


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alhawke

Re: Amazon's ill-treatment of authors directly harmed by AI
« Reply #7 on: August 13, 2023, 01:02:40 AM »
Let's hope Amazon gives up that information if asked for it. Of course, if there is a lawsuit, Amazon could be subpoenaed. And yes, lawsuits are expensive, but that's the only way to deal with an actionable matter.
The crazy thing about the story is that, in the US, according to my understanding of law, she can't win such a court case. There's no copyright infringement--unless the book was clearly created using her content. Then it could be brought up as an AI legal case. My hunch is that someone used her name to cash in on her notoriety and then created a bogus AI book. If it was a writer help book, that's yet another moral crime.

So you got moral crime galore with someone trying to make money off someone's name, press a few buttons to create a book with AI (which we all know is infuriating as #@*(&^! in itself after all the work we put into creating our books), and then bogusly claiming to help people. I see moral crime here. Such a person is pretty low. But I don't see legal crime. As you all know, people use the same author name all the time. I know an author who used mine for a book.

From what I read, Jane Friedman is not seeking legal support to sue, she's seeking it to see if she can trademark her name to prevent this from happening again. Anyway, the whole thing disturbs me. I once worked with her with her editing services and I see her as a great resource for Indie writers.
 

Post-Crisis D

Re: Amazon's ill-treatment of authors directly harmed by AI
« Reply #8 on: August 13, 2023, 06:48:23 AM »
From what I read, Jane Friedman is not seeking legal support to sue, she's seeking it to see if she can trademark her name to prevent this from happening again.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer.  My understanding of trademark (with regard to trademark in the U.S.) is that it is similar in some respects to copyright.  There are unregistered trademarks and registered trademarks.  Although you can register a trademark with an "intent to use" statement, often before you register a trademark, you have already been using it as a trademark.  A trademark is used to identify a product or service.  If it's unregistered, you ideally put TM (or SM) next to it to identify it as your trademark.

Can you stick a TM by your name on your books?  I don't have that answer.  I am not a lawyer.  I have some familiarity with trademark in general but not specific to using your author name as a trademark.  I would say that, if someone (like Amazon) asks if you have a trademark on your name, do not say "no" without first speaking to a trademark attorney.  If you don't have a registered trademark, you can say you do not have a registered trademark but do not answer as to whether or not you have a trademark without first speaking to a trademark attorney.  Don't post online that you don't have a trademark without first speaking to a trademark attorney.

If you say publicly that you do not have a trademark, you are possibly creating an uphill battle for your trademark attorney if you intend to register a trademark.

Whether or not the way you have used your name can qualify as a trademark is something you would need to discuss with a trademark attorney.  Maybe it wouldn't qualify, in which case it probably doesn't matter what you say.  But, if it were to qualify but you've been publicly saying, oh, no, I don't have a trademark, then your future trademark attorney may want to slap you.
Mulder: "If you're distracted by fear of those around you, it keeps you from seeing the actions of those above."
The X-Files: "Blood"
 

Bill Hiatt

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Re: Amazon's ill-treatment of authors directly harmed by AI
« Reply #9 on: August 13, 2023, 11:38:13 PM »
There is another question regarding the use of Jane Friedman's name.

Is the author in question really named Jane Friedman? I'm sure whether trademarking can force someone to not use their own name, but if they use some other name, particularly that of a famous author, that seems much more problematic. (I'm not a lawyer, either.) The other Stephen King didn't get in legal trouble for using his own name to market horror novels, but eventually, Amazon forced him to add a middle initial to avoid confusion, something it should have done much faster. I'm not sure whether that was because the well-known Stephen King registered trademarked his name or not.

With regard to AL Hawke's comment, we're in somewhat new territory with regard to copyright. There's no question Friedman's books are copyrighted. That means that AI developers have to be able to claim fair use in order to get away with using her material and others in training. If, as Friedman asserts in the article, developers obtained copies of her work through scraping pirate sites, then it's going to be very hard for them to claim fair use. As I pointed out in another thread, to be on 100% solid ground, they'd need to have bought copies of all the books they used. Likely, they'd also have had to access the content in some way that didn't violate DMCA.

All we know about the database process is that the material comes from the "publicly accessible internet."  Pirate sites that actually have books could be publicly accessible, at least in theory. But that wouldn't make them legitimate data sources. Clearly, authors are not posting their own whole novels online.

Could an author prove that AI developers used pirate copies or even his or her particular work? Maybe. If an author could prompt the AI to spit out part of one of their works (which has happened at least once) then yes, at least on the using the books part. Developers could be called to testify under oath about sources. The databases could even be subpoenaed.

The companies would doubtless try to block such a move on the basis that  the information is proprietary. But how can a company claim data they scraped off the "publicly accessible internet" is proprietary information?

Friedman may not be suing over copyright, but some writers are. It will be interesting to see how that plays out.


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LilyBLily

Re: Amazon's ill-treatment of authors directly harmed by AI
« Reply #10 on: August 14, 2023, 12:11:36 AM »
Yes, it's doubtful the other Jane Friedman is other than a pseudonym cynically designed to batten on her fame. You don't have to have a copyright or a trademark to sue someone over trying to impersonate you for profit, especially in a field (publishing, in this case) in which you are well known. Remember, you can sue anyone for anything. All it takes is money.

In another life, I dealt with trademark issues. We investigated someone using a name our company made famous. It was her real name, and she wasn't trying to batten on the fame associated with ours. We didn't try to stomp on her because we had no leg to stand on legally.

 

PJ Post

Re: Amazon's ill-treatment of authors directly harmed by AI
« Reply #11 on: August 14, 2023, 02:21:44 AM »
Let's remember that AI had nothing to do with this. The same could have been done with a typewriter and scanner or a word processor. It's the intent that matters, not the tool.

And hasn't this happened kind of a lot over the last eight years or so? Seems like the self-publishing world was constantly dealing with these kinds of trademark and copyright issues, or am I suffering from the Mandela Effect?
 
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Bill Hiatt

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Re: Amazon's ill-treatment of authors directly harmed by AI
« Reply #12 on: August 14, 2023, 03:48:39 AM »
Ai has something to do with it, if only because it makes the process easier. It's also been trained in a suspect manner. People can outright plagiarize on their own. AI gives them a harder-to-detect cover, since they are essentially drawing from many authors at the same time.


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