An author is raising alarms this week after she found new books being sold on Amazon under her name — only she didn’t write them; they appear to have been generated by artificial intelligence.
Jane Friedman, who has authored multiple books and consulted about working in the writing and publishing industry, told CNN that an eagle-eyed reader looking for more of her work bought one of the fake titles on Amazon. The books had titles similar to the subjects she typically writes about, but the text read as if someone had used a generative AI model to imitate her style.
“When I started looking at these books, looking at the opening pages, looking at the bio, it was just obvious to me that it had been mostly, if not entirely, AI-generated … I have so much content available online for free, because I’ve been blogging forever, so it wouldn’t be hard to get an AI to mimic me” Friedman said.
With AI tools like ChatGPT now able to rapidly and cheaply pump out huge volumes of convincing text, some writers and authors have raised alarms about losing work to the new technology. Others have said they don’t want their work being used to train AI models, which could then be used to imitate them.
“Generative AI is being used to replace writers — taking their work without permission, incorporating those works into the fabric of those AI models and then offering those AI models to the public, to other companies, to use to replace writers,” Mary Rasenberger, CEO of the nonprofit authors advocacy group the Authors Guild, told CNN. “So you can imagine writers are a little upset about that.”
Last month, US lawmakers met with members of creative industries, including the Authors Guild, to discuss the implications of artificial intelligence. In a Senate subcommittee hearing, Rasenberger called for the creation of legislation to protect writers from AI, including rules that would require AI companies to be transparent about how they train their models. More than 10,000 authors — including James Patterson, Roxane Gay and Margaret Atwood — also signed an open letter calling on AI industry leaders like Microsoft and ChatGPT-maker OpenAI to obtain consent from authors when using their work to train AI models, and to compensate them fairly when they do.
Friedman on Monday posted a well-read thread on X, formerly known as Twitter, and a blog post about the issue. Several authors responded saying they’d had similar experiences.
“People keep telling me they bought my newest book — that has my name on it but I didn’t write,” one author said in response.
Amazon removed the fake books being sold under Friedman’s name and said its policies prohibit such imitation.
“We have clear content guidelines governing which books can be listed for sale and promptly investigate any book when a concern is raised,” Amazon spokesperson Ashley Vanicek said in a statement, adding that the company accepts author feedback about potential issues. “We invest heavily to provide a trustworthy shopping experience and protect customers and authors from misuse of our service.”
Amazon also told Friedman that it is “investigating what happened with the handling of your claims to drive improvements to our processes,” according to an email viewed by CNN.
The fake books using Friedman’s name were also added to her profile on the literary social network Goodreads, and removed only after she publicized the issue.
“We have clear guidelines on which books are included on Goodreads and will quickly investigate when a concern is raised, removing books when we need to,” Goodreads spokesperson Suzanne Skyvara said in a statement to CNN.
Friedman said she worries that authors will be stuck playing whack-a-mole to identify AI generated fakes.
“What’s frightening is that this can happen to anyone with a name that has reputation, status, demand that someone sees a way to profit off of,” she said.
The Authors Guild has been working with Amazon since this past winter to address the issue of books written by AI, Rasenberger said.
She said the company has been responsive when the Authors Guild flags fake books on behalf of authors, but it can be a tricky issue to spot given that it’s possible for two legitimate authors to have the same name.
The group is also hoping AI companies will agree to allow authors to opt out of having their work used to train AI models — so it’s harder to create copycats — and to find ways to transparently label artificially generated text. And, she said, companies and publishers should continue investing in creative work made by humans, even if AI appears more convenient.
“Using AI to generate content is so easy, it’s so cheap, that I do worry there’s going to be this kind of downward competition to use AI to replace human creators,” she said. “And you will never get the same quality with AI as human creators.”