"I demand you take my book off your site immediately."

Prose Parser

A new site, Prosecraft.io offered to lend a helping hand to struggling writers, using AI algorithims to analyze the text of thousands of books from their favorite authors. On Monday, it was abruptly shutdown by its creator.

It turns out — not surprisingly — that those authors never got a say in letting their copyrighted text get scraped wholesale, just to be graded on meaningless criteria like "vividness" and the use of passive voice.

Author Zach Rosenberg was one of the first in the community to call out Prosecraft, tagging its creator Benji Smith in a scolding and now viral post on X-formerly-known-as-Twitter.

"I demand you take my book off your site immediately," Rosenberg wrote. "I do not consent to this, and never did. And I know my publisher never would."

The Pen Is Mightier

Hell was soon unleashed on Smith. Authors almost universally lambasted the project, including well-knowns like Jeff Vandermeer (Annihilation), Hari Kunzru (White Tears), and even presidential candidate Marianne Williamson, who called the practice "deeply unethical," and that it "should be illegal."

Smith, writing with something like genuine remorse, quickly responded to the outcry.

"Hey everyone … I'm truly sorry to have hurt you in any way," he replied to Rosenberg's post. In a follow up, Smith promised to remove entries by individual request if the authors emailed him with a link to their book.

No one was buying Smith's olive branch.

"You absolutely do not need a title by title run down," Vandermeer responded. "Just run a search on your own damn site."

Another author summed up the general consensus: "Remove every single person's book unless you have [their] affirmative consent."

Happily Ever After

The proliferation of generative AI has pretty much every creative on edge — and not without good reason. These technologies are overwhelmingly trained on artworks without permission from the original creators. In this case, by Smith's admission, the full text from over 25,000 books was gleaned via web crawlers.

The outrage of the authors here was only deepened by the revelation of Prosecraft's companion project Shaxpir, a word processor made by Smith that harnesses his site's analytics tech to provide statistical insights into writing.

While not a generative AI, it did use AI to power several of its analytics features. For authors wary of the ruthless copycatting of large language models, that distinction was too thin for comfort.

Attempting to visit the site now redirects to a Medium post by Smith, in which he explains how his belief that he was "honoring the spirit of the Fair Use doctrine," since he was only publishing statistics.

On Tuesday, he posted another update, purging all Prosecraft data and removing all features on Shaxpir that relied on it.

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