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As It Happens 6:32: Someone Published “AI-Generated” Books Under Her Name. It Took a Fight with Amazon to Get Them Removed

In 2024, the publishing industry found itself facing a bizarre and unsettling challenge: the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI)-generated books being published under authors’ names without their knowledge or consent. This article delves into the ordeal of Jane Friedman, a respected U.S.-based author, who unexpectedly found herself at the forefront of this battle against fraudulent work.

The Discovery: A Startling Revelation

It all began when a bewildered reader stumbled upon five new titles listed under Jane Friedman’s name on Amazon. These books, boasting titles like “How to Write and Publish an eBook Quickly and Make Money,” raised suspicion due to their substandard quality and repetitive, nonsensical content.

Feeling Violated: An Author’s Anguish

Upon investigating the matter, Friedman confirmed her worst fears: the books were not written by her. She expressed a deep sense of violation and anger, considering the books to be “bloviating garbage” that lacked any meaningful substance or literary merit.

Goodreads Removal: A Glimmer of Hope

Friedman’s journey to remove the fraudulent books began with Goodreads, a popular online book rating and recommendation site. The volunteer moderators of Goodreads promptly recognized the legitimacy of her claim and swiftly removed the fake titles, offering a small glimmer of hope amidst the chaos.

Challenge with Amazon: A Roadblock

However, removing the books from Amazon proved to be a more arduous task. Amazon’s policy required proof of copyright or trademark infringement, which were not applicable in Friedman’s case. She faced a roadblock as her attempts to report the issue through online forms yielded no response, leaving her feeling frustrated and helpless.

Pamela Samuelson’s Perspective: A Legal quandary

Pamela Samuelson, Co-director of the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology, shed light on the legal implications of Friedman’s case. She emphasized that even though Friedman did not own the copyright to the fraudulent books, her case still constituted illegal misrepresentation. Samuelson stressed the platform’s responsibility to investigate and remove misleading content, highlighting the need for a proactive approach to addressing such issues.

Social Media Pressure and Authors Guild Support: A Collective Voice

Friedman’s efforts gained momentum with the unwavering support of the Authors Guild, a prominent advocacy group for authors’ rights, of which she is a member. The Authors Guild amplified her voice, raising awareness of the issue and urging Amazon to take action. Social media also played a significant role, with authors, readers, and industry professionals uniting to exert pressure on Amazon to address the problem.

Shawn Bayern’s Insights: A Glimpse into the Future

Shawn Bayern, a law professor at Florida State University, provided a thought-provoking perspective on the implications of Friedman’s case. He predicted that cases like hers might become more prevalent as generative AI technology continues to advance at an unprecedented pace. Bayern expressed hope that people would eventually develop the ability to recognize AI-generated fakes more easily, but acknowledged that this would be an ongoing challenge.

Amazon’s Response: A Glimmer of Accountability

In response to CBC’s inquiry, an Amazon spokesperson stated that they have clear content guidelines and promptly investigate concerns raised about books listed for sale. They acknowledged that addressing individual claims can be challenging due to the high volume of inquiries they receive, but emphasized their commitment to maintaining the integrity of their platform.

Friedman’s Perspective on Amazon’s Response: A Call for Vigilance

Friedman acknowledged the challenges faced by Amazon but emphasized that the onus should lie with the publishers to ensure the removal of such fraudulent content. She expressed concern that authors should not be burdened with the responsibility of policing this issue, which could potentially stifle creativity and innovation in the publishing industry.

Conclusion: A Call to Action

Jane Friedman’s experience highlights the growing challenge of AI-generated content being published without authors’ consent. It raises questions about the responsibility of platforms like Amazon in addressing misrepresentation and the potential impact on the publishing industry as generative AI technology continues to evolve.

The fight against fraudulent AI-generated books is far from over. Authors, readers, and industry professionals must unite to demand accountability from platforms like Amazon and advocate for stronger measures to protect authors’ rights and the integrity of the publishing ecosystem.