Pixel Scroll 9/12/23 For Us, the Scrolling

(1) MICHAEL CHABON SUES META OVER AI COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT. At The Hollywood Reporter:“Meta, OpenAI Class Action Lawsuit: Novel Authors Claim Infringement”.

Michael Chabon and other decorated writers of books and screenplays sued Meta on Tuesday in California federal court in a lawsuit accusing the company of copyright infringement for harvesting mass quantities of books across the web, which were then used to produce infringing works that allegedly violate their copyrights. OpenAI was sued on Sept. 8 in an identical class action alleging the firms “benefit commercially and profit handsomely from their unauthorized and illegal” collection of the authors’ books. They seek a court order that would require the companies to destroy AI systems that were trained on copyright-protected works.

…As evidence that AI systems were fed authors’ books, the suit points to ChatGPT generating summaries and in-depth analyses of the themes in the novels when prompted. It says that’s “only possible if the underlying GPT model was trained using” their works.

“If ChatGPT is prompted to generate a writing in the style of a certain author, GPT would generate content based on patterns and connections it learned from analysis of that author’s work within its training dataset,” states the complaint, which largely borrows from the suit filed by [Paul] Tremblay.

And because the large language models can’t operate without the information extracted from the copyright-protected material, the answers that ChatGPT produces are “themselves infringing derivative works,” the lawsuit against Meta says….

(2) CHENGDU PROGRAM PARTICIPANTS. File 770 asked Chengdu Worldcon committee member Joe Yao for a list of the people who have been added as Worldcon guests since the recent offer of help went out. No names were provided, however, Yao made this statement:

We kept inviting guests from both China and abroad, and now we have about 500 guests confirmed to come. They will attend some key events including the opening ceremony, Hugo ceremony and the closing ceremony, and they will also participate in programs as either guests or speakers. My team is working closely with the overseas team on programs and we have drafted a mastersheet of the programs. It will be confirmed and released soon.

(3) BARRIERS TO TRAVEL. Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki commented on Facebook about the challenges of getting a visa.

Nigerian passport & visa issues. Recently found out the Italian visa app has more requirements than US. Then I thought maybe China’s. Someone just told me that’s harder than the US’s. Germany might not give you visa even on their chancellor’s request. Is there any one that’s easy (possible) for a Nigerian?

When I was in the US, anytime Africans saw I was on a b1-b2 visa they used to be shocked out of their skulls. Like you find someone with the complete infinity gauntlet and stones. So for all these to be harder, Lol.

It’s really something to be a Nigerian that isn’t chained down and utterly grounded. Meanwhile what it took to get my US visa & the price I had to and still pay for it gifted me PTSD and damage I might never be able to afford treatment for. But hey, na me wan dream. Lol

(4) NASFIC MINUTES AVAILABLE. [Item by Kevin Standlee.] The minutes of the NASFiC WSFS Business Meeting at Pemmi-Con are now published on the WSFS Rules page here. (Scroll down to “MINUTES of the 2023 WSFS Business Meeting of the 15th NASFiC”.)

(5) ABRAHAM AND FRANCK Q&A. Award-winning sci-fi writers Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck talk with Meghna Chakrabarti about the world they created in The Expanse and what they’re working on next. “’The Expanse’ authors on ‘the importance of complicating people’” at WBUR.

(6) INTERNET ARCHIVE APPEALS TO HIGHER COURT. “Internet Archive Files Appeal in Copyright Infringement Case”Publishers Weekly has details.

As expected, the Internet Archive this week submitted its appeal in Hachette v. Internet Archive, the closely watched copyright case involving the scanning and digital lending of library books.

In a brief notice filed with the court, IA lawyers are seeking review by the Second Circuit court of appeals in New York of the “August 11, 2023 Judgment and Permanent Injunction; the March 24, 2023 Opinion and Order Granting Plaintiffs’ Motion for Summary Judgment and Denying Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment; and from any and all orders, rulings, findings, and/or conclusions adverse to Defendant Internet Archive.”

The notice of appeal comes right at the 30-day deadline—a month to the day after judge John G. Koeltl approved and entered a negotiated consent judgment in the case which declared the IA’s scanning and lending program to be copyright infringement, as well as a permanent injunction that, among its provisions, bars the IA from lending unauthorized scans of the plaintiffs’ in-copyright, commercially available books that are available in digital editions.

“As we stated when the decision was handed down in March, we believe the lower court made errors in facts and law, so we are fighting on in the face of great challenges,” reads a statement announcing the appeal on the Internet Archive website. “We know this won’t be easy, but it’s a necessary fight if we want library collections to survive in the digital age.”…

(7) GARETH EDWARDS VIRTUAL CONVERSATION. MIT Technology Review will hold an online event “Humanity and AI: A conversation with the director of ‘The Creator’” at LinkedIn on Thursday, September 14, 2023, at 2:30 p.m. Eastern. Appears that LinkedIn registration is required.

As many today try to imagine the future of our world with artificial intelligence, MIT Technology Review’s senior editor of AI, Melissa Heikkilä, speaks with Gareth Edwards, director of the upcoming sci-fi epic “The Creator,” about the current state of AI and the pitfalls and possibilities ahead as this technology marches toward sentience. The film, releasing September 29th and starring John David Washington and Gemma Chan, imagines a futuristic world where humans and AI are at war and fundamentally explores humanity’s relationship with AI, what it means to be human, and what it means to be alive.

(8) THE HEINLEIN SOCIETY. These are the new Officers for The Heinlein Society:

The Board of the Society voted [September 11] for its new leadership & Executive Committee effective immediately:

  • President & Chairman: Ken Walters
  • Vice President: Walt Boyes
  • Treasurer: Geo Rule
  • Secretary: Betsey Wilcox

Congratulations to all of them! 


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 12, 1897 Walter B. Gibson. Writer and professional magician who’s best known for his work creating and being the first and main writer of the pulp character The Shadow with The Living Shadow published by Street & Smith Publications in 1933 being the first one. Using the pen-name Maxwell Grant, he wrote 285 of the 325 Shadow stories published by Street & Smith in The Shadow magazine of the Thirties and Forties. He also wrote a Batman prose story which appeared in Detective Comics #500 and was drawn by Thomas Yeates. (Died 1985.)
  • Born September 12, 1921 — Stanisław Lem. He’s best known for Solaris, which has been made into a film three times. The latest film made off a work of his is the 2018 His Master’s Voice (Glos Pana In Polish). The usual suspects have generous collections of his translated into English works at quite reasonable prices. (Died 2006.)
  • Born September 12, 1940 John Clute, 83. Critic, one of the founders of Interzone (which I avidly read) and co-editor of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (with Peter Nicholls) and of the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (with John Grant) as well as writing the Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Science Fiction. All of these publications won Hugo Awards for Best Non-Fiction. And I’d be remiss not to single out for praise The Darkening Garden: A Short Lexicon of Horror which is simply a superb work.
  • Born September 12, 1942 Charles L. Grant. A writer who said he was best at what he called “dark fantasy” and “quiet horror”. Nightmare Seasons, a collection of novellas, won a World Fantasy Award, while the “A Crowd of Shadows” short garnered a Nebula as did “A Glow of Candles, a Unicorn’s Eye” novella. “Temperature Days on Hawthorne Street” story would become the Tales from the Darkside episode “The Milkman Cometh”. Both iBooks and Kindle have decent but not outstanding selections of his works including a few works of Oxrun Station, his core horror series. (Died 2006.)
  • Born September 12, 1952 Kathryn Anne Ptacek, 71. Widow of Charles L. Grant. She has won two Stoker Awards. If you’re into horror. Her Gila! novel is a classic of that genre, and No Birds Sings is an excellent collection of her short stories. Both are available from the usual suspects. She is the editor and publisher of the writers-market magazine The Gila Queen’s Guide to Markets
  • Born September 12, 1952 — Neil Peart. Drummer and primary lyricist for the prog-rock, power-trio band Rush. Neil incorporated science fiction and fantasy elements into many of Rush’s songs.  An early example is “By-Tor and the Snow Dog” from the Album “Fly By Night”.  The entire first side of the 2112 album (back when albums had sides) was the 2112 suite telling the dystopian story of a man living in a society where individualism and creativity are outlawed.  Neil is a genre author having co-written The Clockwork Angels series with Kevin J. Anderson.  (Died of glioblastoma, 2020.) (Dann Todd) 
  • Born September 12, 1965 Robert T. Jeschonek, 58. Writer for my purposes of both genre and mysteries. He’s written short fiction set in the Trek universe. He’s also written fiction set in the BattletechCaptain MidnightDeathlandsDoctor WhoStarbarian Saga and Tannhauser universes. We really need a concordance to all these media universes. Really we do. 


  • Candorville is where an author claims to focus on the positive. But does he?

(11) WESTERCON 75 ANNOUNCEMENT. Arlene Busby, chair of the cancelled Westercon 75, announced today that all membership refunds have been issued. Also, the transfers have been completed for all those members who requested that their membership monies be transfer to Loscon 49.

Similarly, refunds have been issued to all Dealers who requested them. And transfers have been completed for Dealers who requested their fees be transferred to Loscon 49.

Busby adds, “We thank everyone for their support and patience in getting all these transactions processed. If you have any questions please contact me at [email protected].”

(12) TREK THEME PERFORMED IN CHINA. From the Beijing Star Trek Day event mentioned in the September 9 Scroll comes this a video of the Michael Giacchino Star Trek theme performed on traditional Chinese instruments – see it on Weibo

(13) PULITZER PRIZE ELIGIBILITY UPDATED. “Pulitzer Board Expands Eligibility for Authors” reports Publishers Lunch.

Beginning with the 2025 awards, which opens for submissions in spring 2024, the Pulitzer Prize board has changed the eligibility requirements for the books, drama and music awards to include “US citizens, permanent residents of the United States,” and authors for whom “the United States has been their longtime primary home.” Previously, only US citizens were eligible for the awards, with the exception of authors of history books, who could be of any nationality if their book was about US history. “For the sake of consistency,” the prize board said, history books must be written by US authors according to the new guidelines.

Books still must be “originally published in English in the United States.”

In “Pulitzer Prizes expand eligibility to non-U.S. citizens”, the Los Angeles Times amplifies how the change was brought about.

…Following an August petition on the literary sites Literary Hub and Undocupoets to reconsider the U.S. citizenship requirements for the arts prizes, the Pulitzer board addressed the issue….

The petition, which was signed by many prominent authors, was created in part because of the passionate case that author Javier Zamora made against the Pulitzer’s U.S. citizen requirements in a De Los opinion piece titled “It’s time for the Pulitzer Prize for literature to accept noncitizens.”…

(14) GREG JEIN COLLECTION TO AUCTION. Model and miniature-maker Greg Jein, who died last year, had an extraordinary collection of iconic sf props and costumes, which are now going under the hammer: “’Star Wars’ Red Leader X-Wing Model Heads A Cargo Bay’s Worth Of Props At Auction” at LAist.

…The intricately made starfighter brought millions of people along for the ride as a group of plucky Rebel pilots assaulted the Death Star. Now the Star Wars scale model is being sold at auction, with bids starting at $400,000.

The “Red Leader” (Red One) X-wing Starfighter from 1977’s Star Wars: A New Hope is “the pinnacle of Star Wars artifacts to ever reach the market,” says Heritage Auctions, which is handling the sale as part of a trove of science fiction props, miniatures and memorabilia.

The X-wing tops the auction list, but it’s far, far from alone: It was found in the expansive collection of Greg Jein, an expert craftsman who was as skilled at bringing futuristic stories to life as he was devoted to preserving the models and props used to bring strange new worlds to TV and film.

…More than 550 items from Jein’s collection are now heading to auction, from Nichelle Nichols’ iconic knee-high boots and red tunic as Lt. Uhura to Leonard Nimoy’s pointy ears as Spock. A hairpiece for William Shatner’s Captain Kirk and Lt. Sulu’s golden tunic are also up for sale….

There’s more information in the Heritage Auctions press release: “Mother Lode From the Mothership: Model-Making Legend Greg Jein’s Collection Beams Up to Heritage”.

…Jein also preserved Spock’s ka’athyrathe Vulcan lute strummed in a handful of Original Series episodes, including “Amok Time ” and “The Conscience of the King “; the ray generator called into duty during several Original Series episodes; and the Universal Translator that Kirk used to talk to the Gorn in “Arena. “ There’s something for fans of nearly every episode of The Original Series, from the ahn-woon of “Amok Time “ to the agonizer used in “Mirror, Mirror” to The Great Teacher of All the Ancient Knowledge intended to restore “Spock’s Brain.” The Trek offerings in The Greg Jein Auction are nearly as vast as the final frontier itself….

(15) IN THE SPIRIT OF PHILIP K. DICK. A discussion with 81st Worldcon Chair He Xi and multidisciplinary sci-fi artist Yin Guang, “HUGO X: 2”, a Chengdu Worldcon Talkshow, closes with the jolly speculation that carbon-based life will be the scaffolding for silicon-based life – artificial intelligence – and when that building is built, “you’ll be torn down.”

[Thanks to SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Kevin Standlee, Ersatz Culture, Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

24 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 9/12/23 For Us, the Scrolling

  1. (1) Go, Michael Chabon, go!

    (9a) Happy birthday to Walter B. Gibson! I hope that someday Condé Nast will treat “The Shadow” better — allow reprints again, allow a good Shadow movie to be made, etc. (And that James Patterson & co-author Shadow book that they did allow… wot?!)

    (9b) Happy birthday to Charles L. Grant, who died way too young. His “Shadows” anthology is still missed.

  2. sigh, no jetpack.
    (1) “the suit points to ChatGPT generating summaries” – so, as I noted the other day, not nice to give a summary of the entire plot of a novel.
    (3) M Epkepe, as a US citizen (with zero control over visas, etc) let me apologize for the disgraceful and racist forceful repatriation ending your visit. I would have really liked to have had the chance to talk to you….
    (8) Special congrats to Walt Boyes (ObDisclosure: he’s my editor at my old and new publisher).

  3. Some scrolls never meet their scrollmates and are doomed to cross the vast space between the stars forever. We mourn them and we blame jetpack for failing them.

    (1) Go Chabon!

  4. 1) Are they claiming that any summaries or analyses produced by ChatGTP of novel are “infringing derivative work”? How is it more or less infringing than when a reviewer publishes a summary or an academic an analysis?

  5. 3) Which means, I’m guessing, that in a week or two we’ll be seeing some more fundraising, solicitations, and general opportunities to support the cause.

    9) My grandfather used to have recording of ‘The Shadow’ radio show and we’d listen to it together when I was just wee. They passed to me when he passed and I’m now listening to them with my sons. That started a lifelong love for those old pulp heroes, The Shadow, The Spider, The Phantom, etc. I even own DVD copies of Alec Baldwin and Billy Zane’s efforts, while hoping that some streaming service or studio rediscovers these and does them justice.

    9) I always liked Rush, although not as much as some of my friends have assumed that I would like them.

  6. @Cliff

    1) Are they claiming that any summaries or analyses produced by ChatGTP of novel are “infringing derivative work”? How is it more or less infringing than when a reviewer publishes a summary or an academic an analysis?

    The difference is that -so the claim of the lawsuit – Chat GPT is using the summaties commercially, i.e. to make profit, It can not be fair use, because its not a person who is using the texts to make a broader point, but the text will become a part of the commercial software. More like if youre using an icon from an artist for your word processor.
    A summary in academics is not used with commercial intend. If a reviewer only publishes a salary and makes moey out of it, I assume, its also not fair use.
    (of course Im not a lawer and while I know a bit about copyright, its mostly about German law, not US law, so I wont make a guess how much of the argument holds water)

  7. (15) A couple things jumped out: the unapologetic profit motive of writing serial online fiction and offering reader perks for tip jar money with the goal of getting your completed project’s IP sold off to a big media company; the naked acknowledgment that genre fiction is rapidly becoming AI-assisted; He Xi’s concern that without big investment by various parties to move it out of the nascent hobby stage, the field will become insular and self-indulgent. Maybe they’ll fix WSFS?

  8. RE: Stanislau Lem
    My favorite is “The Cyberiad: Fables for the Cybernetic Age”

    One of my favorite lines went something like “There was once an aged Cyberian who was so poor he had to rub two pieces of amber together for electricity.”

    The man was brilliant!

    HIGHLY recommended!

  9. @Anne Marble
    “I hope that someday Condé Nast will treat “The Shadow” better — allow reprints again, allow a good Shadow movie to be made, etc.”

    In a little over three years, the character “The Shadow” enters the public domain, and anyone can make a Shadow movie. Whether it will be good is another story . . . (thinking of the 2003 slasher film, “Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey”)

  10. @peer — the commerciality of a potentially infringing work is only one of four factors to be considered, and isn’t dispositive all by itself. And surely reviews of copyrighted works as published in The Washington Post, The New York Times, etc. are commercial in and of themselves.

    I’ve never heard of any review or summary of a copyrighted work being held to be a “derivative work”; the term usually refers to a piece of fiction built on another fictional character, universe, milieu, etc, or a work recast into another medium (a movie of an existing book, for example), or a translation from one language to another. The copyright Circular on Derivative Works lists a number of examples of types of derivative works. It is not exhaustive, but there is nothing in it like reviews or summaries.

    This is not to say that the lawsuit cannot be won, but that if it is, they will have to convince the courts of some ideas that don’t seem to exist in precedents.

  11. @Carl Andor: I ran across The Cyberiad as I was studying computability theory in grad school — a subject which, shall we say, gets very abstract, and is mostly concerned with reasoning about imaginary machines — so “The Dragons of Probability” remains my personal favorite Cyberiad story.

    The School of Higher Neantical Nillity is in fact wholly unconcerned with what does exist. Indeed, the banality of existence has been so amply demonstrated, there is no need for us to discuss it any further here. The brilliant Cerebron, attacking the problem analytically, discovered three distinct kinds of dragon: the mythical, the chimerical, and the purely hypothetical.

  12. @peer – as bill notes, reviews are written for commercial gains. As for commercial analysis, see for example CliffNotes.

    “but the text will become a part of the commercial software. More like if youre using an icon from an artist for your word processor.” Sorry, but that analogy is lost on me. FWIW, the text does not become part of ChatGTP.

  13. (2) There’s a new post on the con site that, once you get past the all-important news about the naming of the mascot, adds a new name: Richard Taylor, the guy in charge of special effects at Weta studios. There are also a couple of Chinese directors, whose names I don’t immediately recognize.

    Cixin Liu and Robert Sawyer are namechecked, but Lukyanenko is again missing.

  14. @Cliff: The impression I got is that the authors are using the summaries as evidence that ChatGPT has access to the full text of their books. I think they’re saying that it wouldn’t be able to produce such detailed summaries otherwise. IMO, how convincing that argument is depends on 1) how detailed the summaries really are, and 2) how famous the book is. For a really famous book like A Game of Thrones or Carrie, there have been so many summaries, reviews, and discussions written about them online that a program like ChatGPT could probably cobble together a very accurate summary from those ancillary materials. And some less famous books at least have a rudimentary plot summary on Wikipedia. So the question is, is it plausible that ChatGPT could have created its summary of the book in question by scraping pieces that were written about the book rather than the book itself?

  15. @Nina – yep, agreed on all your points. But even if they do manage to establish the model was trained on the full book, does it follow that writing reviews and/or analyses based on that training is breach of copyright? My comparison with a human reviewer doing so would suggest not. But I hadn’t taken into account the situation of reviewer basing their review on a pirated copy of the book, which might be a better comparison.

  16. @cliff: I think a newspaper can function without the review. Even the review can function without the summary. But Chat GTPs function would be at least very dimished without feeding it the books. Wether thats important for the case – Im no lawyer. But I do see a difference there.

  17. The London Review Of Books would not be quite the same without the reviews.

    But you’re not comparing like with like. It’s true that ChatGTP could no summarise a book without having been fed either the book or summaries of the book. But it’s also true that a human reviewer couldn’t write a summary without having read the book or summaries of it.

  18. Pirated copies of books are copyright violations. No doubt. But downloading a mass of copyrighted books is a separate and independent action from what the LLM does.

    If a computer software looks at, for example “Tale of Two Cities” (pretend it is still in copyright), and sees the three-word phrase “It was the”, and makes an entry in a database with that phrase and increments a counter by 1, and then sees the three-word phrase “was the best” and does likewise, and so on for “the best of”, “best of times”, “of times, it”, “times it was”, etc., etc., (this is the meat and potatoes of how LLMs analyze text, is it not?), then has the software package made a copy of the work? Looks to me like it has just done a detailed statistical analysis of it. Don’t you have to actually make a copy (or a derivative work, and as I’ve said above, it’s not obvious that a summary, analysis, or a pastiche would count) to infringe?

    Does any of the analysis change if the textual database was built on legitimately obtained copies, on which royalties had been paid? If the model had a scanner looking at hardcopies as input, three words at a time, no copies need be made. I’m sure I could build up a corpus of many millions of words for a few thousand dollars at “Friends of the Library” book stores, Goodwill, and the like.

    My issue with some of the lawsuits being filed is that they seem to come from a perspective of “My book is being used and I’m not getting paid” — but copyright law has never required that an author get paid for every use of their work (otherwise libraries couldn’t exist). There should be a clearer demonstration that the LLM does something that infringes the original work. The outputs, as I see them described, typically don’t, so there has to be an infringement upstream, and the lawsuits typically handwave that part of the discussion.

  19. @cliff: “as bill notes, reviews are written for commercial gains.”

    Some of them, sure, but as a rule?

  20. “Some of them, sure, but as a rule?”

    How do you even answer this question? Is it possible to count all of the reviews and figure out which are commercial and which aren’t?

  21. As I understand it, many fair use and copyright arguments make a distinction between “editorial” and “commercial” use. Yes, the contents of the newspaper is ultimately designed to sell newspapers, but there is considered to be a public good to the existence of newspapers regardless of profit motive.

    So if you take a picture of a random person on the street reacting to a terrible fire for a newspaper, that’s “editorial” and generally allowed. That same photo used in an advertisement for, say, fire suppression systems, is “commercial” and you have to pay them for the right to use their image…

    Copyright is a complicated field.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.