Ambulance-chasing has a long tradition in the US, and class actions are its Holy Grail, so no-one is surprised that law firms like Saveri are riding this bandwagon, but as discussed earlier in the year, Saveri is going all out for author sympathy regardless of legal merit.

Law suits against AI companies abound, and no question there are some valid issues that need settling in court, but already it’s beginning to feel like lawyers are just throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping some strands stick.

Is this really what the publishing industry wants or needs?

Over at Publishers Weekly this week, Andrew Albanese summarises two on-going law suits against the alleged AI copyright thieves, and in both cases a judge has thrown out parts of the claims because they have no merit.

While the judge in one case has left the door open for revised claims – perhaps a nod to the fact that the law as stands was never written with AI in mind – the quick dismissal of some of the claims is a severe blow to the many in the AI Resistance camp who are citing as fact allegations of copyright theft, despite, as Albanese notes, many lawyers stating well in advance that the claims were not well-grounded in law.

From PW back in July:

Multiple copyright lawyers told PW on background that the claims likely face an uphill battle in court. Even if the suits get past the threshold issues associated with the alleged copying at issue and how AI training actually works—which is no sure thing—lawyers say there is ample case law to suggest fair use.”

PW offers several examples of why, that in the interests of the fair use clause I’ll leave to you to click through and read, and instead conclude the summary of that PW article with this quote:

 ‘I just don’t see how these cases have legs,’ one copyright lawyer bluntly told PW. ‘Look, I get it. Somebody has to make a test case. Otherwise there’s nothing but blogging and opinion pieces and stance-taking by proponents on either side. But I just think there’s too much established case law to support this kind of transformative use as a fair use.’ “

The July lawsuit came under scrutiny from TNPS at the time.

More on that below. First, as Albanese explains in PW this week, “The proposed class action suit before Chhabria was filed on July 7 by the Joseph Saveri Law Firm on behalf of authors Christopher Golden, Richard Kadrey, and comedian Sarah Silverman, just days after the Saveri firm filed a similar suit on behalf of authors against Open AI, with authors Paul Tremblay and Mona Awad as named plaintiffs.”

Albanese notes that Awad has since withdrawn from the claim (for reasons unclear) and that yet another case was filed in August.

In each case the law suits make the spurious claim that AI is generating writing in the style of an author or providing in-depth analysis of a published book, and that it does so by illegally copying an original work for its “training.”

For anyone who isn’t irrationally opposed to the very concept of AI and therefore clutching at any straw to attack it, the idea that it is a crime for an author to write in the style of another is as laughable as the idea that an author who learned their trade by reading other authors’ books has committed a crime.

What next? A lawsuit claiming an author has no spelling mistakes so they must have plagiarised a dictionary?

Interestingly, Albanese notes that “The pending dismissal of some of the authors’ claims comes after another federal judge dismissed similar claims from a lawsuit filed by a group of visual artists (also represented by the Saveri law firm) against AI companies Stability AI, Midjourney, and Deviant Art. As reported by Reuters, judge William Orrick said he was ‘not convinced that allegations based on the systems’ output could survive without showing that the images were substantially similar to the artists’ work.’

Clearly the Saveri law firm has a lot to answer for. Ambulance-chasing has a long tradition in the US, and class actions are its Holy Grail, so no-one is surprised that law firms like Saveri are riding this bandwagon, but as discussed earlier in the year, Saveri is going all out for author sympathy regardless of legal merit.

Let me rest this case, if you’ll forgive the legal pun, with what I said back in July:

IP infringement is a crime. Period. Laws are already in place to protect IP. Individual authors and small publishers might not have the wherewithal to take legal action against a company that owns an AI bot, of course, and that ls where class actions like this come into their own. But they need to stick to the legal remit, not play to the audience.

Per Saveri, “it’s critical that we recognise and protect the rights of authors such as these against unlawful theft and fraud.”

Go for it, Joseph. Prove it happened, let the Judge deal the punishment, and let’s move on.

But Saveri’s agenda is just beginning.

“GPT-3.5 and GPT-4 are not just an infringement of authors’ rights; whether they aim to or not, models such as this will eliminate ‘author’ as a viable career path. This case represents a larger fight for preserving ownership rights for all artists and other creators.”

No. Ownership rights are already preserved in existing law. If existing laws are insufficient, that is for the lawmakers to address, not the courts.

In what country are there legal grounds for objecting to AI because it will – Saveri’s words – “eliminate ‘author’ as a viable career path”?

With that one meaningless gesture, Saveri totally undermines the legitimate case that may exist regarding scraping Smashwords, and turns this into a Luddite battle for the return to steam engines and quill pens.

Yes, AI is a threat to author jobs. Of course it is. In the same way as email was a threat to the postman’s job and the motor car a threat to the horse-drawn carriage industry, or TV a threat to Hollywood.

But society evolves by embracing new technologies and new opportunities, not clinging to the past because someone’s job depends on it. If that were the case we would still be lighting our homes with candles, doing our international business via sailing ship, and you certainly would not be reading this on a screen.

IP laws already exist. They exist to protect intellectual property, not to protect creator careers. Creator careers are carved by providing content the consumer desires. There are no job guarantees, for authors or anyone else.

And the courts are not the place to try protect author career paths. Joseph Saveri should stick to its primary remit, and challenge the AI companies on perceived breaches of existing law.