AI and the Copyright Page

For many years, the copyright page has served niche functions for a very niche audience. Basically, a copyright page is there for 8 reasons that hardly anyone cares about:

1) To assure your ex that the character who resembles them in every single detail is due to a series of very unlikely coincidences.

2) To answer questions about reading order in the event that the publisher is sadistic enough to not include this on the freaking spine of the book.

3) To stop a lawsuit that isn’t going to ever happen anyway.

4) To depress a book collector by revealing that this is, in fact, a second edition.

5) To take and/or give credit for the hard work of turning a mangy rough draft into an actual book instead of writing a proper acknowledgment like anyone not raised in a barn should, unless of course you’re worried that this breaks immersion for the reader, in which case slap it here where nobody will notice, sadly.

6) Because libraries?

7) Where to go to find awesome blog posts by the really cool and handsome dude who wrote the book you are holding.

Other than number 7, none of these are important. But wait! Before you think I’m against copyright pages, I’m here to tell you that copyright pages have been waiting hundreds of years to discover their purpose, and their purpose is now!

All future editions of my works will include an AI disclaimer on the copyright page. That disclaimer will let the reader know if AI was used in any way for the writing of or creation of the book they are holding.

I’ll give examples below, but first: my AI pledge.

My AI Pledge

I have never used AI for a single piece of my writing. None. Zilch. Zero. I have no plans to ever use AI for any of the contents of my stories. Not even to get rid of typos. I love my typos.

Does this mean I don’t believe that AI will one day be better than me at writing stories? Heck no. It’s gonna trounce me the way it trounces me at chess. It’ll even learn to write just like me and use words like “gonna” and “trounce.” Fine. Bring it on.

The only thing I have to offer readers (and it ain’t much) is that I’m me. I’m the analog thing. The scratchy vinyl record. The old sock with the hole in the heel. There’s humanity to my imperfections, and that’s all I’ve got to barter with. Many readers will go find perfect books written by brilliant AI in the centuries to come, but there will only be one place to find stories written by the meat me.

This is why I make my AI pledge. Not because I think I’m better than AI will ever become, but because my authenticity will be all that I have that it can never have. If you like reading my works, which are a product of my pains, joys, fears, ambitions, scars, life experiences, then you know where to come find those stories. That’s what I have to offer.

HOWEVER. There may be a future work where I write about AI, or a fourth-wall-breaking satirical AI is part of a story, or I want to mock AI, or include blocks of AI for some unforeseen reason (I currently have no plans for any of this, but it all sounds like fun!), I will make sure the reader knows that this is AI.

It may never happen, but if it does, the copyright page is a perfect place to put this. It will also be where my AI Pledge goes in every single book, so readers can tell at a glance that I swear upon my life and at risk of perjury that the entire book they are holding is told by meat.

If there are exceptions, the pages will be listed and context will be given. The AI text will be italicized or in some way made obvious. I will never try to pass off someone else’s writing as my own. Ever. Take that to the bank and put it in there with all your crypto.

“But wait!” I hear some of you saying. “You said there were already 8 reasons for a copyright page, and your sample one above only included 7!”

8 The other niche use of copyright pages is to sometimes list the imprint of the publishing house who made the book, even though no reader cares who published the dang thing, only if it’s any good, but publishers can’t believe this is true and they even think that someone out there cares what imprint within the publishing house made the book even though there’s only 37 people in the entire publishing industry who care what imprint a book belongs to, and three of them are pedants who also steal your food out of the break room fridge (and none of these 37 people are what we would even generously call “a reader”).

30 responses to “AI and the Copyright Page”

  1. Very funny 🤣😂🤣

  2. “… the entire book they are holding is told by meat.”


  3. Now I need to go check out all of the copyright pages in my book collection 😂

  4. I would think a better use of the Copyright would be to declare that no AI could be TRAINED on the copyrighted work. AI has no originality, it can only take in large quantities of material and try to splice it back together in a (usually) coherent manner. Declaring your works off-limits for AI to use as training material means AI will never be able to create “in the style of Hugh Howey” and limits the range of things AI can learn. If enough creative people do this, AI can’t learn from anything and won’t be able to create anything, at least outside places like Adobe where they own a zillion images copyrighted to themselves so they can do whatever they want with them.

    1. Excellent point.

    2. I disagree for enough reasons that I’ll make another post to explain why. But I absolutely think other authors should do this if they wish.

      1. Scott Marmorstein Avatar
        Scott Marmorstein

        Hugh, disagree with what to make another post? I couldn’t tell where your response was.

    3. It could be argued that no human writer or storyteller has any originality (depending on what you define as originality). Overcoming The Monster, Rags To Riches, The Quest, Voyage & Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth. Every story told is one or more of these.

      The true value of a great writer is in the energy (soul) they pour into the work. It’s not just the combination of words. No AI is likely to have that, though they may simulate it well enough and we are certainly already seeing people make it try.

      I look at AI as a tool. Every author is free to use it or not. Personally, I am hopeful that it will allow people to release their own stories into the world for us to enjoy. To accomplish that successfully, they will still need to provide the soul.

  5. While agreeing that #7 is the blinking only real reason for a Copywrite Page, I’ve been known to doodle there. Might that be considered a reason for existence or just a recreation area?

    You should see the naughty ways I can play with Simon & Schuster.

    No AI was used in the creation of this comment.

  6. That is awesome Hugh. I will never look at the copyright page the same again. I was also planning on doing the same thing regarding AI for my book and website. Society really doesn’t understand just how ugly that green headed monster is going to be!

    1. I personally read the copyright page to check which edition and year the copy I have is, and as a designer I also always check the last page to find out which font is being used, if the book cover was illustrated by someone cool… And on the AI topic. I know each author has the right to their own ideals, but personally I think it’s sad that AI gets to make art while we are underpaid for hard work…

  7. I approve of this message. And the typos made by meat.

  8. I don’t know. For people who struggle with their stories, I think AI can be a valid wall-bouncing exercise. It shouldn’t write your MS for you–who’d want to read it at this point?–but it can provide some useful feedback. My example, while writing in a project recently, was that I got stuck on some particular mechanics of how a scene could be told effectively and clearly so the reader doesn’t sit there scratching their head. It had to do with a scene where welding (a skill I know nothing about) was being implemented. The AI gave me some good feedback on how I could conceivably write the scene. I took some of its observations to heart and the rest I ignored. It works well enough and doesn’t bombard the reader with ‘info-dumping’.

    1. It’s fantastically useful! It will change writing forever. This is the path I’m going for now.

    2. Fred Anderson Avatar

      I’ve found AIs to be really useful in telling me what something is, because nothing makes me feel like an idiot about what things are called like trying to write about them.

      I regularly hit ChatGPT with questions that start with the phrase “what’s the thing called that _____?” (actual example: what’s the thing in a car that makes the clicking sound when a turn signal is on? Now I know it’s a flasher relay.)

      Now, if it would just answer the question simply instead of generating two pages of blather to go with its response…

  9. Jessie C. Cairo Avatar
    Jessie C. Cairo

    Bravo! Pip Pip. I always knew you were human.

  10. Currently AI doesn’t exist. It’s a marketing term. LLMs exist.

    Companies took every piece of text/image on the internet, and fed them to a computer that can break them apart and piece them back together.

    If real AIs ever exist, they may not actually be interested in writing fiction. And if they are, their stories won’t be like ours, as they’ll only know what we’ve programmed them to know, and then any experiences they have. They won’t have biological bodies, so they’ll never know what it is to experience what we experience.

    1. Couldn’t disagree more.

    2. Heidi Farrington Avatar
      Heidi Farrington

      There’s a really great book you might enjoy by Erik J. Larson, “The Myth of Artificial Intelligence: Why Computers Can’t Think the Way We Do.”

  11. Thomas Edison Hicks Avatar
    Thomas Edison Hicks

    This is fabulous Hugh. It is not only great information but it’s a good read to boot.

    I will now and forever be reading (or at least looking at) the copyright page of every book I read.

  12. William Jacques Avatar
    William Jacques

    Started using AI as a mere “tool” for my art, but now it’s pretty much producing the entire work itself. It’s just too good not to let it do most all the work. I crop, colorize, and put different depth of field on parts of it.. but it’s now nearly all AI. (At least I don’t lie about it.) Anyone who believes it’s not going to eventually take over nearly all art just doesn’t understand its potential. And as soon as it becomes more selectively self-generating and acquires “meat” on its own.. well..

  13. Spot on Hugh. Thank you for this post and I assume across your SM.

    And it is funny too 😁

    There has been a lot of discussion on SM. I’ve said similar things – we need to declare our position and the involvement or otherwise of AI on our work. Folk will take note if you say it.

    Not just on our books, but everywhere we can: website, blog, relevant posts etc. just drive home the message and make it front and centre.

    Taking the chess analogy further, often online when someone with a lower ELO beats a higher ELO, sometimes by pulling the move of the century out of his bag by accident, they get accused of using AI.

    There is no way to prove you didn’t. The rules of specific games make it almost impossible sometimes – but it happens.

    Same for books. There’s no way to prove it. I wish there was. Maybe some regulation or other will come up with a way.

    In the meantime, declaring it is the only way.

    Will you back fill, or is there no point. They were written before AI and it’s self evident?

    1. I will back fill at some point, when I do other updates and get rights back to books and re-publish.

  14. Your point about “the genuine you” is great. AI is going to trounce all of us in strict quality, so all we have left is our unique flaws… like diamonds.

    I have a couple of short pages in my next book that were written by GPT-4, which is exactly what I wanted because the AI character does the writing in the story. I think I will italicize those. I already had a disclaimer identifying them.

  15. And so it begins. Been chatting with other independent authors on Twitter who have decided this same thing.

    I plan to include a note as well in my credit section (I usually do editing by and cover design by there) because I do like AI, but I want to ensure readers know when work has been altered with AI, and when not.

    I love the act of writing and coming up with story ideas way too much to use AI to do it for me. And adore my readers too much to give them an “auto” written work of any kind.

  16. I don’t believe libraries use the ISBN number, unless they just need it for ordering books. What they do like to have (and was not included in your sample) is the Library of Congress number, which would look like: LA 212 .L33 2010

  17. I suspect that we will soon be facing an interregnum in the process of writing novels, as the use of artificial intelligence and large language models will make book writers even more productive – at least in terms of the number of words written per day. After that, in five, ten or twenty years’ time, books (and similar narrative media such as complex video games) will be written largely automatically. Like a car that is painted and equipped according to the consumer’s wishes, books may become 100% commodities.

    Of course, this is only one of many possible futures, and the shape of that future will also be largely influenced by the quality of the stories that can be automatically produced, and therefore how well those stories can capture the human imagination. But, as any decent psychologist will tell you, consumption and fulfillment are two different things, and it is perhaps also possible that overconsumption will lead to saturation. The advent of long-form podcasts, which have effectively killed off the soundbite business model of TV networks, may also be an indication of future trends: people simply crave deeper understanding, and that can only be achieved with a time investment of many hours. So the readers of the future will have to master the filtering skills that will keep them away from the low-quality, auto-generated content.

    In the end, the story will stay the same: the trick is to know which books are worth reading.

  18. In your pledge, you say that AI has never been used for a single piece of your writing. Not even typos. So I assume that means you have never used a spell checker, grammar checker, never had a single autocarrot, and nobody who offers you feedback or editing services has either. That’s an enormous feat. It seems a bit superhuman to me. As an author who struggles with ADHD and brain fog due to post viral chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia I don’t have that luxury. I like a lot of what you say about AI, but I feel like this pledge of yours is setting up those of use with struggles and disabilities to feel a bit “less than” in the face of it. I don’t let AI write my words for me, most of the time. Not in my creative works at all so far. But it’s been a fantastic writing partner. Sometimes I will ask it for ideas or lists or headlines and titles. Things to spark me. Sometimes I will feed things I have written into it and ask it to make a summary for me or identify something obvious I may have missed. Sometimes I will ask it to rewrite something I have written with different instructions…but then I don’t use what the AI write, I just see how it organized it or said it differently and it gives me ideas to improve things. For me it’s like a writing buddy with endless patience and time for me.

    I can appreciate other authors deciding not to use AI, especially because I see it more as a prosthetic tool and I wouldn’t expect that an abled author to need it. But the wording of the pledge feels a little bit neggy. Just give us the facts. AI was used or not used. Don’t include a value judgement. I plan to do something like saying that AI was used in a support capacity but something about how the words are my own….or a dedication that says Thanks to my best friend ChatGPT for all the help and support lol. I think it’s important to be honest. If we just rip all our words from an AI the work is not copyrightable. So we want to get ahead of copyright issues by making it absolutely clear that we have put a significant amount of ourselves into the work.

  19. I use GPT as a thesaurus. Thinking about it I feel like a thesaurus itself is very similar to an AI assistant. Would using GPT as a thesaurus break your pledge and if so what about a normal thesaurus?

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