Intellectual Gang Rape

Photo of eight Beanie Babies placed around a bunny Beanie Baby humping a colorful ram Beanie Baby on a gray and white background. The ram looks disturbed.

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Welcome to the world of being plagiarized by AI – bend over and take it

Nothing is sacred anymore

Years ago, I gave up any expectation of privacy – first online, then in every capacity of my life. Big data knows more about me from my Google searches and VISA purchases than my family does. But now, technology has crossed the line. AI wants to steal everything you have ever written and posted online – with no consequences and no compensation.

I recently read Robin Wilding’s story, “Medium Wants to Sell Our Content for $.10,” about how Medium is thinking about “getting in front of it” by selling our stories to AI companies so they can train their systems on our content.

On Mastodon, Coach Tony Stubblebine proposed to his followers – presumably Medium writers – the idea of selling Medium stories for AI training at the rate of ten cents per story. He proposes placing the earnings in a pool that will be passed on to writers with the most “Quality/Popularity,” which means that the blessed 6% of Medium authors will get another bonus. 

Seriously, Medium wants to sell access to our content for ten cents a story. This makes me sick. 

In a follow up Mastodon post, Stubblebine states, “For people saying No [to Medium profiting off writers’ work sold to AI]. How do you feel about your current licensing? Medium’s default is ‘all rights reserved’ to you. But it’s not proven yet, and not at all clear legally, whether that still allows AI companies to consume your content under a legal theory of fair use for derivative works.”

The day that all rights to my work are no longer reserved to me, I will pull my content from Medium. It’s that simple.

This is a situation for lawyers to sort out. From what I have researched, an individual has rights to their own derivative works. Anyone using your original or derivative works without citing you as the author is plagiarizing your content. 

Angela Langlotz’s video, “What is a ‘Derivative Work?” provides some explanation.

What is fair use?

The law group Pike & Lustig, in their article, “When is Derivative Work A Violation of Someone’s Copyright?” explains fair use in the following manner: “Regardless of whether work is derivative or not, it is generally considered fair use (not a copyright violation) to use someone else’s intellectual property for the purposes of scholarship, education, parody, or news reporting, so long as the copyrighted work is only being used to the extent necessary.”

This is a gray area 

As a high school history teacher, I could legally share images and content in my lessons with my students, as long as I did not attempt to personally profit from their use by selling those lessons to other teachers. In the AI-training context, it is machines that are being “educated.” However, the intent of those machines is to ultimately repurpose your content and give or sell it to another individual to use as their own. In my mind, this is intellectual theft.

In the comments section of Robin Wilding’s post, I noted my disappointment. 

“I have recently began publishing my opinions on education in a publication I created called ‘Urban Education’ with the intention of eventually compiling it into a book (or ebook). So now, AI can plagiarize my work. I have also published numerous “personal” stories, and now AI can manipulate my experiences into someone else’s story. I don’t want to see a movie about someone’s dad’s ashes blowing across the freeway or someone being ‘held hostage’ by the Ukrainian mob on a Black Sea cruise. This is absolute bullshit. Someone needs to create a better place for writers that is free of AI-assisted content and protected from AI cannibalism.”

In our exchange of comments, Robin praised Medium’s leadership for getting ahead of the curve on this issue. She is right about Medium being proactive. 

On Medium, I am a bigger reader than writer 

Since joining Medium in February 2020, I have published 66 articles – total. I only write when I am inspired to write. However, I read a lot – usually 20+ articles a day – and I have written 679 comments. I have been educated, amused, and inspired by the content I have read on this platform. I enjoy the engagement with other writers. For me, Medium is a social media venue for intelligent people. It is way more engaging than “liking” something a friend or relative has shared on Facebook.

As a reader, I don’t want to read anything written with AI assistance. For starters, the writer is not a real writer when they merely “prompted” the content. They are certainly not a content expert. Secondly, you cannot trust the accuracy of the content – AI might have hallucinated entire sections of the material.

This is more than just a Medium issue. It is a problem for all writers, whether they are bloggers or academics. Imagine everything you have ever posted online being gobbled up or “consumed” by AI to be repurposed against your will: every Facebook post, every private comment in a Facebook group, every contribution to a subreddit, every review on Yelp, every professional post on LinkedIn, every blog post you have ever made. 

AI is out to steal everything you have ever created and posted online, and you have no control. 

Being plagiarized by AI is intellectual rape. Having all your work abused by AI is gang rape.

© Joyce O’Day 2023. All Rights Reserved.

AI was NOT used in the creation of this article.

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