[Statement] The EU must act now to ensure that Generative AI is more transparent – for the sake of the book chain and democracy

On the occasion of the Frankfurt Book Fair, the biggest book fair in the world, the European Writers’ Council (EWC), the Federation of European Publishers (FEP) and the European and International Booksellers Federation (EIBF) call upon the European co-legislators to seize the opportunity of the AI Act to take decisive action to ensure the transparency of generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) and make it safer for European citizens.

Generative AI models have been developed in an opaque and unfair way, illegally making use of millions of copyright-protected books without permission from authors or publishers. This practice impacts negatively not only rightsholders, but also democracy itself, by facilitating the mass creation of misleading, biased, and even dangerous content which has the potential to undermine European democracy. Transparency is therefore essential to the development of a fair and safe AI ecosystem. The EU now has the ideal opportunity to take a leading role in protecting its citizens through the AI Act.

The European Parliament has taken a good first step by proposing transparency obligations for Foundation Models, such as ChatGPT or Bard, to ensure they provide a detailed summary of the copyright-protected works used for training and operate in respect of fundamental rights. Member States and the Commission must now seize this rare opportunity to improve the proposal and finally put an end to the illegal sourcing and data-laundering abuses of generative AI developers. Transparency over inputs to AI is the only way to ensure quality and legitimacy of outputs.

Meaningful transparency obligations allowing a rightsholder to assess whether their work was used are easy for the innovative AI operators to comply with. They are technologically simple to apply and rely on data that AI developers already collect and organise. And they are needed now, as damage is already done since existing generative text models used works for years without consent, credit or compensation to the authors and publishers. On the 19th of October, FEP will dedicate its Rendez-Vous at the Frankfurt Book Fair to the impact of AI on the sector, the necessary legislative action, and how authors, booksellers and publishers may take steps towards protecting their works in the context of Text and Data Mining (TDM).

Signatories (alphabetical order):

EIBF: The European and International Booksellers Federation (EIBF) is a Brussels-based non-commercial organisation that serves as the voice of booksellers at a European level and on the global stage. Through its members, national booksellers associations, EIBF represents the interests of booksellers of all types, from brick and mortar and independent bookshops, to online sellers and chains.

EWC: The European Writers’ Council (EWC) is the world’s only and largest representation of solely writers in the book sector and of all genres (fiction, non-fiction, academic, children’s book, poetry, etc.) constituted by currently 49 national professional writers’ and literary translators’ associations and unions in 31 European countries, representing 220.000 writers, writing and publishing altogether in 34 languages.

FEP: The Federation of European Publishers (FEP) is the umbrella association of book publishers in the European Union and the voice of the great majority of publishers in Europe. FEP represents 29 national associations of publishers of books, learned journals and educational materials of the European Union, the European Economic Area and other European countries.

For more information contact:

For the European and International Booksellers Federation (EIBF)
Julie Belgrado, EIBF Director

For the European Writers’ Council (EWC)
Nicole Pfister Fetz, EWC Secretary General
+41 79 330 02 67
Nicole will be present and available at the Frankfurt Book Fair the 18th and the 19th of October.

For the Federation of European Publishers (FEP)
Quentin Deschandelliers, FEP Legal Advisor
+32 2 776 84 63
Quentin will be present and available at the Frankfurt Book Fair from the 18th to the 20th of October.

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