AI-generated deepfake books were just sold on Amazon under a real author's name

AI-generated deepfake books were just sold on Amazon under a real author’s name

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In what is surely a sign of things to come, an author this week talked about her struggle to get Inc. to take down books that had been written with generative artificial intelligence but were being sold under her name.

Right now, the generative AI systems available from companies such as Open AI LC and Google LLC are not good enough to mimic perfectly the style of a certain author and write an award-winning novel, but these systems are being trained using those writers’ words, as is evident by a recent outcry from thousands of professional authors. It’s probably only a matter of time before AI can indeed write something that can’t be determined as either real or a cheap copy.

Even if the tech isn’t there yet, the veteran author Jane Friedman felt what it’s like to see products online being sold with her byline beneath them. “As of today, there are about half a dozen books being sold on Amazon, with my name on them, that I did not write or publish,” she tweeted on Monday. “Some huckster generated them using AI. This promises to be a serious problem for the book publishing world.”

In the same thread, while talking about how this was very different from piracy, she said the books being sold were “garbage.” It’s likely someone got the bright idea to ask the paid version of ChatGPT to write a series of short novels in the style of Friedman.

In a blog post, she explained that persuading Amazon to take the books down was far from simple. When she told the company that someone was writing under her name without her consent, she was asked, “Please provide us with any trademark registration numbers that relate to your claim.” She said she didn’t have one, after which Amazon sent a message back saying the books were staying and the case was closed.

She only found out about the books when a reader contacted her about her new “style,” which, as Friedman said, meant the books were crap. She did some investigating and discovered about a half-dozen titles being written under her name, and worse, the phony books sold and later appeared on her official page on Amazon-owned Goodreads. She subsequently kicked up a stink about her experience, and with a large Twitter following and a regular column in Publishers Weekly, Amazon put someone else on the case.

“The fraudulent titles appear to be entirely removed from Amazon and Goodreads alike,” Friedman said today. “I’m sure that’s in no small part due to my visibility and reputation in the writing and publishing community. What will authors with smaller profiles do when this happens to them?”

Indeed, and Amazon doesn’t yet have a policy about AI-generated books sold under an established author’s name. It would at least seem fairer if such books appeared with a statement saying they are AI-generated, but then again, if the AI ever becomes as good as the author, what’s the point of the author? It’s an interesting philosophical question.

You’d assume most people would want to read something written by a person whose experiences and struggles have led to the creation of the art, but perhaps not so much for other people if they can be entertained for pennies. Regardless, the Brave New World feels crude and tasteless.

“These companies need to take these problems seriously,” Friedman told Gizmodo. “It’s not about shutting down AI globally, it’s about living with it in a way that respects human creators and that helps protect them from what some of these bad actors are going to do with the technology.

Photo: Alex Knight/Unsplash

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