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The Authors Whose Pirated Books Are Powering Generative AI

The Atlantic [free link]: “One of the most troubling issues around generative AI is simple: It’s being made in secret. To produce humanlike answers to questions, systems such as ChatGPT process huge quantities of written material. But few people outside of companies such as Meta and OpenAI know the full extent of the texts these programs have been trained on. Some training text comes from Wikipedia and other online writing, but high-quality generative AI requires higher-quality input than is usually found on the internet—that is, it requires the kind found in books. In a lawsuit filed in California last month, the writers Sarah Silverman, Richard Kadrey, and Christopher Golden allege that Meta violated copyright laws by using their books to train LLaMA, a large language model similar to OpenAI’s GPT-4—an algorithm that can generate text by mimicking the word patterns it finds in sample texts. But neither the lawsuit itself nor the commentary surrounding it has offered a look under the hood: We have not previously known for certain whether LLaMA was trained on Silverman’s, Kadrey’s, or Golden’s books, or any others, for that matter.

In fact, it was. I recently obtained and analyzed a dataset used by Meta to train LLaMA. Its contents more than justify a fundamental aspect of the authors’ allegations: Pirated books are being used as inputs for computer programs that are changing how we read, learn, and communicate. The future promised by AI is written with stolen words. Upwards of 170,000 books, the majority published in the past 20 years, are in LLaMA’s training data. In addition to work by Silverman, Kadrey, and Golden, nonfiction by Michael Pollan, Rebecca Solnit, and Jon Krakauer is being used, as are thrillers by James Patterson and Stephen King and other fiction by George Saunders, Zadie Smith, and Junot Díaz. These books are part of a dataset called “Books3,” and its use has not been limited to LLaMA.

See also Quartz – AI companies are too cheap to pay for legit books. Companies like Meta and OpenAI have been using pirated copies of books to train their AI models

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