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Robo-Scribbles: Can AI Legally Ghostwrite Your Next Novel?

Robo-Scribbles: Can AI Legally Ghostwrite Your Next Novel? - Copyright Infringement or Creative Inspiration?

As AI generators become more advanced at producing human-like writing and art, questions arise about copyright and ownership of the content they create. When an AI is given a prompt and produces original poems, stories, images or music, who owns the copyright - the AI system's developer or the human user providing the prompt?

This issue gained prominence recently when Getty Images banned images created by Stable Diffusion and DALL-E, stating they violate copyright. But some argue AI art constitutes fair use, since it remixes and repurposes existing works to create something new. The legal territory is murky, with arguments on both sides.

While AI training datasets may include copyrighted source material, the output is not simply replicated content, but rather a wholly new synthetic creation. The AI has no intent to plagiarize or infringe. Some compare it to how an artist learns techniques by studying masters, then develops their own style. The human providing the prompt is essentially the AI system's teacher, not the sole creative force.

However, critics counter that current AI lacks true imagination or intent, and mimics existing works too closely. Unlike human artists, the AI has no personality or purpose driving its output. Without the human prompt, it could not function creatively on its own.

Interacting with these tools provides insight on both perspectives. With the right prompt crafting, the results can feel creatively inspired, not copied. Yet often the output leans heavily on its training, producing eerie echoes of existing material recombined in new ways. Work is still needed before AIs can claim full autonomous creation.

Robo-Scribbles: Can AI Legally Ghostwrite Your Next Novel? - Limitations of Current AI Fiction Writers

While recent advances in AI creative writing show promise, current systems still face significant limitations as fiction authors. The most glaring weakness is a lack of coherent long-form narrative. AI programs can produce passable short stories, poems, or song lyrics. But a complete novel or screenplay exposes their inability to sustain plot, characters, themes and other elements over chapters or acts.

Prompt engineering and fine-tuning can yield temporarily convincing results. However, inconsistencies and non-sequiturs inevitably creep in. There is no overarching intent guiding the story structure. Humans praise or criticize parts, but cannot explain overall intent to the AI. Without understanding its own creative goals, the AI cannot maintain integrity across a longer work.

This incoherence stems from the AI's limitations in comprehending semantics, causality, and its own output. While it may associate words statistically, it does not truly grasp concepts, motives, or consequences. The AI blindly followspatterns from its training data, without deeper comprehension or purpose. It cannot intentionally plant plot seeds that pay off chapters later, or shape multi-dimensional characters with organic growth. Themes and social commentary emerge more accidentally than intentionally.

Many writers have experimented with AI co-writers, hoping to compensate for the technology's weaknesses through human oversight. But this risks being more editor than author, or requires extensive reworking. The ideal of an AI writing partner remains elusive. As novelist Robin Sloan reported in a Slate article, his AI-generated text required heavy revision: "I found myself spending as much time taking things out as keeping them in."

Robo-Scribbles: Can AI Legally Ghostwrite Your Next Novel? - Human Curation Still Critical for Cohesion

While AI writing tools hold exciting potential, human oversight remains essential for weaving coherent and compelling narratives. Without an author's unifying vision, AI-generated stories tend to meander and lose cohesion. The technology provides raw material, but curation by a human is critical for polishing disconnected prose into a tight, intentional narrative.

This need for human curation is especially pronounced in long-form fiction like novels, where numerous plot threads must intertwine into a consistent narrative arc. Experienced authors shape stories holistically across chapters and acts, planting clues that pay off later and guiding character growth. An AI lacks this overarching perspective and cannot self-correct inconsistencies.

Writer Robin Sloan chronicles his experience collaborating with an AI fiction writer for Slate. While impressed by the AI"™s lyrical prose, he found it could not sustain coherence beyond a page or two. "œAny longer than that, and a kind of chaos creeps in," Sloan wrote. "œIncongruous details accumulate; characters contradict themselves; chronologies knot up." Extensive editing was required to craft the AI"™s output into a structured story, essentially using it as a generative tool while maintaining an authorial hand.

Scifi author Blake Crouch had a similar experience when he experimented with AI co-writing. "œWhat was missing was a unifying voice," Crouch told the New York Times. While AI could produce passages that "œread like something I could have written," transformations were needed to unify it into a singular narrative. This required scrutiny of "œevery word, every sentence" from a holistic authorial viewpoint.

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