If you’ve been on social media any during the last week or so, you’ve probably seen some hand wringing and hair tugging by some authors over Amazon’s latest update to its Terms of Service for its KDP service. Basically, authors using the platform must tell Amazon if they have used AI to create the content or cover for their books. But to hear some of the authors talk, you’d think Amazon is ramping up for the great purge. Of course, this is exactly how many of them react anytime the very name “Amazon” is used. Now, before you jump to conclusions, this isn’t me defending Amazon, at least not much. I recognize the company is anything but infallible. But I do think this knee-jerk reaction is a bit over the top, especially since the new policy is something a number of authors asked for.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I believe AI can be a useful tool for writers. I suck at creating titles. So having an AI-generated list of possible titles helps me narrow down and then create my own. I have two project currently that I’ve done that with. Neither of the titles for these projects are titles created by the AI. But the titles were influenced by the AI (in this case, ChatGPT).
I have played around with having various AI programs write a scene or even a full chapter. What I quickly found is that using the programs to actually write something that doesn’t need heavy editing, even complete rewriting, isn’t worth the time and effort required to set all the perimeters, etc. By the time I do all that, I could write the scene or chapter myself from scratch. Heck, if I’m being honest, I could write more.
As for the writers who asked Amazon to make the changes, I believe they had good reason to. I know of several who have written about how they’ve had folks use AI to “rewrite” their books, changing names and places, and then publishing them under their own name. Author Jane Friedman had it go even further. A reader contacted her after seeing several books under Friedman’s name show up in an Amazon search. Friedman reviewed the titles and quickly decided they had been produced using AI. But the real issue for her was the “author” was using her name to sell these books.
Amazon wasn’t, at least at first, willing to remove the books. Apparently, the company reasoned that she hadn’t trademarked her name, so they didn’t have any obligation to do as she asked. But Friedman is a pro at using social media to get her message across. She went public, the story spread and soon the books were taken down.
As for Amazon asking for authors to reveal if their work was AI-generated, right now all it means is clicking a could of boxed–one for the content and one for the cover/other images.
Here’s the AI-related portion of KDP’s ToS:
Artificial intelligence (AI) content (text, images, or translations)
We require you to inform us of AI-generated content (text, images, or translations) when you publish a new book or make edits to and republish an existing book through KDP. AI-generated images include cover and interior images and artwork. You are not required to disclose AI-assisted content. We distinguish between AI-generated and AI-assisted content as follows:
- AI-generated: We define AI-generated content as text, images, or translations created by an AI-based tool. If you used an AI-based tool to create the actual content (whether text, images, or translations), it is considered “AI-generated,” even if you applied substantial edits afterwards.
- AI-assisted: If you created the content yourself, and used AI-based tools to edit, refine, error-check, or otherwise improve that content (whether text or images), then it is considered “AI-assisted” and not “AI-generated.” Similarly, if you used an AI-based tool to brainstorm and generate ideas, but ultimately created the text or images yourself, this is also considered “AI-assisted” and not “AI-generated.” It is not necessary to inform us of the use of such tools or processes.
You are responsible for verifying that all AI-generated and/or AI-assisted content adheres to all content guidelines, including by complying with all applicable intellectual property rights.
The key portion, imo, is this: If you used an AI-based tool to create the actual content (whether text, images, or translations), it is considered “AI-generated,” even if you applied substantial edits afterwards.
I’ll admit, I am bothered a bit by the broadness of the definition. Hopefully, Amazon will refine it better as time goes on, especially when it comes to cover images. In the meantime, I’ll be updating all my titles to answer the questions.
As for those who are worried this will lead to some sort of purge by Amazon, I can only suggest they take a deep breath and wait. If Amazon starts removing titles on its own because it feels the title was created via AI, that author should be able to prove it wasn’t. This is why you keep your drafts. It allows you to show the evolution of your book. If you do use AI in your writing, make note of it as well, including keeping copies of your commands and the output and how you made it your own. Is it a pain in the butt? Most definitely. But it is something easily enough done.
I would also suggest checking the other publishing platforms to see what their policy is regarding AI usage. With Amazon making this change to its ToS, it’s a pretty safe bet that the others will soon follow suit.
I guess this is a long-winded way of saying that it is important to not only keep up with ToS changes, no matter what the platform, but also that panicking isn’t the best response. Take precautions to protect yourself, keep your eyes and ears open, and write. Really, until there are confirmed cases of accounts wrongly being taken down, there’s no real sense in waiting for it to happen. Amazon isn’t perfect. In this case, however, it was being responsive to requests from authors to protect not only their own work but the quality of work being sold on the platform.
Featured Image created using Midjourney AI.