After many months spent organizing, strategizing, and working collectively towards a draft both ambitious in scope and reflective of our members’ wide-ranging experiences and perspectives, the NWU Generative AI Working Group has at last ratified our Platform and Principles for Policy on Generative AI. (The final vote was 95.8% in favor, 4.2% opposed. No abstentions.) With it, we have also finalized NWU’s official response to the US Copyright Office’s Notice of Inquiry on “Artificial Intelligence and Copyright,” submitted on October 30.
For NWU members who have already felt generative AI’s impact on their freelance creative work—from authors who have found their work in the C4 list of websites or the Books3 dataset, to content marketers and copywriters who have seen their work erroneously flagged as AI, to freelance writers who have seen per-word rates plunge due to presumptions of AI as a time-saving tool, to illustrators and photographers who have lost commissions due to publications turning to an image generator instead—the ways in which this technology is a labor issue are self-evident. As stated in both the platform and our Copyright Office response:
As creators of “born digital” works distributed primarily online, freelance media workers are among those most likely to be affected by generative AI technologies. Writers, photographers, animators, illustrators, graphic designers, podcasters, editors, multimedia journalists—all of us, our work and our livelihoods, are on the line.
The work we create has been and continues to be used to “train” these systems without our knowledge or consent. Our careers, already precarious and devalued, are increasingly under threat, as corporations turn to generative AI as a “cost-effective” silver bullet. [And] it’s no coincidence that the threat of generative AI is emerging at a time when media outlets are struggling to turn a profit, tech and media workers are being hit with wave after wave of layoffs, and union membership across the board is at a historic low.
In organizing a response to generative AI as the labor issue it is, the NWU Generative AI Working Group has identified six core principles and five key policy areas around which our work going forward will turn:
- Solidarity: We believe that engaging with the broad spectrum of impacts of generative AI on workers and societies around the world is crucial to the development of policies for generative AI.
- Humanity: We believe that the rights of creators are human rights.
- Control and Compensation: We believe creators deserve to be in full control of our work, how it is used, and what we are paid for it.
- Transparency: We believe that without real transparency, generative AI technology can’t operate ethically.
- Accountability: We believe that users and providers of AI systems and services are responsible for their use.
- Integrity: We believe it is crucial to ensure that our audiences are not misled by the output of generative AI models.
- Control: Among other points, we believe that human creators should never be replaced by generative AI. If generative AI is used, it should be as a tool to assist human workers and augment our creative work, not as a replacement. This technology should always supplement, never supplant creative work.
- Compensation: Among other points, we believe that creators should be compensated for all work used for AI at every stage, that any fair compensation strategy must ensure that creators are paid an appropriate rate for our work.
- Credit, Labeling and Transparency: Among other points, we believe that any work that was derived in whole or in part by generative AI should include credit to the authors whose original creations were used to train the AI used to generate that work, and that work generated in whole or in part by AI should be labeled to protect audiences from work that is misleading or incorrect.
- Fair Contracts: Among other points, we believe that future contracts should explicitly ask creators for permission to use our work in AI systems, with terms specifying exactly which generative AI systems a work will be used for, and not simply be a blanket agreement for any and all uses.
- In addition, we believe that freelancers and self-publishers should be afforded the right to bargain collectively with publishers, platforms/distributors, and AI companies without fear of violating antitrust law. An antitrust exemption for creators of intellectual property could be modeled on the longstanding antitrust exemption for agricultural cooperatives.
- Compliance with the Berne Convention and other copyright treaties: Among other points, we believe that Congress must enact legislation explicitly protecting and providing effective redress for violations of authors’ moral rights, independent of copyright ownership.
NWU’s Platform and Principles for Policy on Generative AI will serve as a resource to guide our organizing, activism, and advocacy and to inform NWU members, other creative workers, and allies about what generative AI is, how it is impacting us, and what we can do about it. Our platform builds on our lived experience with the growing impact of generative AI on our working lives and livelihoods, our fundamental principles as a labor union, our longstanding policy advocacy agenda, our history of engagement with Congress and the U.S. Copyright Office, our testimony at the Copyright Office “listening sessions” on generative AI earlier this year, and extensive dialogue with other creators and allies in the U.S. and around the world.
As a working group, we are proud of the documents we are putting out today. Moreover, we are proud of the power we have started to build together, from every corner of the union. NWU members have come together from across the union—from the Freelance Solidarity Project (NWU’s Digital Media Division), from the Book Division, from the Grievance and Contract Committee, along with individual members from chapters including New York, Tucson, DC, Northern and Southern California, Boston, and the At-Large Chapter—to work collectively not just to develop a shared vision of what NWU can do when it comes to generative AI, but to build an effective strategy to see that vision through.
We are energized by what we have already accomplished. But we’re even more excited to take the next step—together.