The production of creative works by artificial intelligence or by way of collaboration between artificial intelligence and human beings is a prominent theme in science fiction. We recognize that the appropriate use of artificial intelligence (AI) technology may be of great assistance in the creative process, and we are looking forward to its further progress. Japanese science fiction writers and creators have substantially contributed to AI technology development through the authorized use of copyrighted data, idea brainstorming and collaboration with various public relations. We welcome, in principle, the use of generative AI technology to bolster creative activities, providing that it does not infringe on people’s rights. We actually believe that the rights to develop and use AI, as well as enjoy the products it creates, should be protected.
However, current generative AI technologies are technically incapable of indicating the extent to which their training datasets contribute to the works generated. This issue remains unsolved and makes it very difficult for users to assess the contribution and influence of the works used as training data. Current generative AI may therefore unknowingly infringe intellectual property rights such as copyrights, moral rights (including the right to maintain the integrity of a work), personality rights, industrial design rights, and trademarks. The Japanese Copyright Act’s Article 30-4 on the limitations of copyrights, which also applies to AI system training, states that the author’s permission is required when a work is used for the purpose of personally enjoying or causing another person to enjoy “the essential expressive features” of the thoughts or sentiments expressed in that work (Note 1). Even when enjoyment is not the purpose, Article 30-4 also stipulates that the reproduction or exploitation of a work may not be allowed without the author’s permission in such cases where “the action would unreasonably prejudice the interests of the copyright owner.”
Until such problems are not properly addressed and solved, we, human beings, need to use generative AI technology with even more care than conventional creative tools when we engage in writing, drawing, translating, acting, performing, directing, developing, researching, editing, reviewing, and publishing activities.
We therefore urge people using generative AI technology to understand its current limitations and to thoroughly check that the publication of generated works does not infringe on the rights of other individuals in light of the current laws and regulations, including the Copyright Act mentioned above.
We ask the developers, deployers and operators of current generative AI technologies to understand the technical limitations of their systems and to work into developing a mechanism that protects the rights and dignity of authors (Note 2).
We encourage all the people involved in administrative and legislative bodies all over the world to understand the technical limitations of current generative AI technologies as well as the importance of ensuring the rights and dignity of authors in creative industries. We hope that they will work to establish a system that protects creative industries, preventing potential infringements of rights by generative AI, inappropriate dumping or downsizing caused by the use of generative AI, or the use of unpublished works as training data (see Note 3).
We finally urge developers and researchers involved in generative AI technologies to develop new AI systems that address the current technical limitations.
Many of our members wish to be involved in making a better society and preventing conflicts. The SFWJ intends on cooperating with organizations related to artistic creation in North America, Europe, Asia, and other parts of the world, to encourage similar efforts abroad.
Science fiction is a genre that enjoys thought experiments. Many of our members show interest in generative AI technologies, some are even looking forward to its further development. Nevertheless, as a group of professionals involved in the production of creative works, we feel that we also have to address the problems raised by current technical limitations. This statement, which aims at protecting both the right to create and the rights of creative works, is the result of several months of discussion between our members. We hope that you will keep that in mind when reading it.
(Note 1) Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs also released a document titled “Relationship between AI and Copyright” which states that “in the case information is extracted from a landscape photograph to create a 3DCG image, and if the purpose is to create an image in which the ‘essential expressive features’ of the original photograph can be felt, enjoying the original landscape photograph can therefore be considered as a part of that purpose, so that extracting information from a copyrighted material in such a way is deemed to be inappropriate.”
See: https://www.bunka.go.jp/seisaku/bunkashingikai/chosakuken/bunkakai/68/pdf/93906201_09.pdf (Japanese text only).
If we take novels instead of photographs, then extracting information from a novel in order to create a new one, with the purpose of creating a new work in which the “essential expressive features” of the original work can be perceived, should not be permitted without the author’s permission.
(Note 2) Several efforts have already been made: providing authors with means of knowing the sources used as training data, using data that do not cause rights issues, ensuring that generated works are transformative enough, and recognizing an author’s contribution to a generated work through honorific and financial awards. We welcome further endeavors.
(Note 3) There is a proposal that in every country, authors should be granted the right to know whether their works have been used as training data, as well as the right to request the deletion of works used for training data without their consent. We hope that this attempt will move forward in accordance with each country’s situation. In Japan, the current Copyright Act and related laws and regulations are difficult to interpret and to apply. The Subcommittee on Legal Systems, which is working under the Council for Cultural Affairs’ Committee on Copyright, is currently trying to clarify the issues with regard to the specific questions raised by generative AI technologies. A Study Group on Intellectual Property Rights in the age of AI holds meetings on the matter, and we ask that such efforts to clarify the interpretation and application of copyright laws will reflect the opinions of authors whose works are used to train generative AI, as well authors using generative AI.
Acknowledgements: In preparing this statement, the SFWJ invited Yusuke Mori, Researcher at the Harada Laboratory of the Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology (The University of Tokyo), to hold a study session on the current state of generative AI. Further discussions were held among SFWJ members, including a debate session. We also asked Takayuki Matsuo, Project Associate Professor at Keio University and lawyer, to provide legal feedback on the text, which has also been reviewed by other experts. The Japanese text was translated into English by Professor Denis Taillandier, a member of the board of directors, with the help of academic colleagues. We would like to thank all those who helped us, both inside and outside of the association.
October 14th, 2023
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of Japan