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Bradford Lit Fest Faces AI Backlash

By Megan Whitlock


Bradford Literature Festival has faced backlash from authors, illustrators and organisations such as the Society of Authors after using AI illustrations in promotional materials for the event. The backlash came the same week that the Society of Authors released a statement outlining concerns on the government’s AI “white paper,” addressing the copyright issues caused by the materials AI systems are trained on (usually existing work from illustrators and creators) and the disruptive potential it has to threaten already precariously compensated creative industries.


The Yorkshire-based festival, which is due to go ahead on the 23 June to 2 July, has seen illustrators like Chris Mould withdraw from holding masterclasses at the event. Mould, a local book illustrator, is quoted in the BBC stating:


“When I work in schools and when I'm on the road, I also like to push the idea of creative careers, because I work in a lot of deprived areas and there are a lot of kids that don't have the chance to get into creative work [...] how can I stand under their roof and tell people they can go to art school and work in these disciplines, if the material used to publicise that event is generated at the push of a button?”


Mould’s concerns echo other industry figures, who worry that AI will be used to undermine creative careers and make already-inaccessible and low-paid industries even more unobtainable to lower-class creatives. In their statement on the issue, the Society of Authors reference research that shows the mean full-time author income to be just £7,000 and express concerns that the majority of AI artwork is trained on existing work, but without any kind of accreditation or compensation to the original creators.


In response, @BradfordLitFest tweeted the following:


“BLF appreciates that AI is a very fast moving and contentious subject right now for all creatives. Our creative agency, Lazenby Brown, used AI for early source images which their illustrator then augmented to create our beautiful new artwork. We believe that these images fully [...] reflect our inclusive ethos, our city and its people. We choose to work directly with illustrators, and a huge range of creative individuals from across the globe, to share, amplify and develop creative discussion and inclusion.”


The issue of where AI stands in relation to the creative industries continues to be a contentious and complex one, yet until there is further regulation and means for proper accreditation, it seems unlikely to be resolved anytime soon.

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