In this week’s Self-Publishing News Special, ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway looks at Wattpad’s new creator fund which will pay writers up to $25,000 .
This month’s Self-publishing News Podcast is just out. You can listen here. Howard and I take a deep look at one of the issues that features again in this week’s news and will keep coming back: AI-generated narration. This week’s #indieauthorchat is tonight, Wednesday 6 July, at 8pm UK time, 3pm Eastern Time. Tim will be asking a really provocative question. Does every book need a story?
Wattpad Introduces a Creator Fund to Pay up to $25,000
Wattpad have made a habit of finding innovative ways of rewarding writers. They are best known for their idea-to-screen pipeline. Numerous stories that started as chapter by chapter self-published reads have ended up being turned into films and TV series.
Wattpad’s latest announcement is a new creator programme. It aims to reward writers who build an “engaged” readership. That is, readers who spend time reading your stories and keep coming back. It’s a similar metric to Medium’s payouts based on the time subscription members spend reading articles. Or YouTube’s algorithms favouring videos that keep viewers engaged for longer. The programme, which is faded with over $2m in the first year, will pay creators up to $25,000 according to the number of these “engaged readers” they attract. In order to qualify for payment, writers will need to hit a minimum number of such readers. That minimum will depend on the genre—from only 100 for horror to 9000 for general fiction.
UK Government Responds to Consultation on AI and Copyright
Last week I included this as a breaking item. Now I want to reflect a little more on the UK government’s response to its consultation on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and copyright. It’s important because this is a consultation to which ALLi contributed. You can find our contribution here. It was one of only 88 written submissions received.
So did they listen to the submissions from rights creators? That, sadly, is one of the perhaps unsurprising things that even their own response doesn’t hide. But let’s rewind. What was this consultation about? There were three questions that were asked. Each of them came with options that started with “do nothing”.
- copyright protection for computer-generated works without a human author. These are currently protected in the UK for 50 years. But should they be protected at all and if so, how?
- licensing or exceptions to copyright for text and data mining, which is often significant in AI use and development
- patent protection for AI-devised inventions. Should we protect them, and if so, how should they be protected?
On the first and final question, the government has decided it will make no change to existing law. Which means computer generated works will continue to enjoy protection for 50 years. And there will be no change to patent law.
No licensing framework for extended data mining
The area in which there will be change is the second. On this area, the highlight of our submission is “we do not support the extension of the existing TDM exception to cover commercial research and databases, without a clear licensing framework.”
It’s that final point that is key. The government has proposed an extension to allow data mining for commercial research. But it has not provided that clear licensing framework. In short, anyone will be allowed to mine any content they have accessed legally. This means that if the text is accessible through a subscription, for example, then creators will not be able to seek an additional licensing fee from anyone who wants to use the text to train their AI.
The combination of these decisions seems at first sight to have some less than ideal consequences. Someone might use my book that’s available on Kindle Unlimited to train a commercial AI that then generates a work based on that training. The company behind the commercial AI would have 50 years of copyright for their computer-generated work. But I would have no rights to charge a licensing fee for the content that enabled this work.
Github shows what happens when platforms use data mining for commercial products
This may sound like a somewhat esoteric worry. But another story in the news this week shows that is very much not the case. The open source movement is up in arms with Github, the go-to platform for working on code. Github has just launched a paid subscription service called Copilot. Copilot will use artificial intelligence to suggest code to people working on the site (like a sophisticated version of autocomplete). Its ability to suggest code to paying customers, for commercial endeavours, in an effective way comes from the fact that it is trained, you guessed it, on the open source code people add to Github.
Print Sales Are Still Falling but Its Not Gloom for Comics and Graphic Novels
We’ve seen a lot about the decline of print sales lately. And the most recent figures are also pretty depressing. In late June they fell 9.4% in the US. But the picture is not gloomy across the board. 2021 saw a year on year increase of US comic and graphic novel sales of 62% to over $2bn. Digital sales of the genres rose much less, to $170m. Comics and graphic novels continue to represent a blossoming part of the market. And the area continues to bring huge opportunities for indies.