ChatGPT & Co: Can AI Tools Replace Freelance Editors?
Do I still need editors if an AI programme can create complete texts? This is a question that not only freelance writers - whether they work on product texts, advertising and PR, journalism or ghostwriting - are asking themselves, but also clients. To begin with, yes, writers will still be needed because artificial intelligence cannot replace humans. In this article, we have summarised why this is so, how AI tools can still help you create copy, and what you need to be aware of in terms of copyright, usage rights and other risks.
In May 2023, the members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) - including about 11,500 screenwriters - went on strike in the USA. In addition to the demand for fair wages for members, a central issue of the strike is the use of artificial intelligence. Screenwriters in particular see their profession threatened by the use of AI tools to create content, and the WGA is demanding a ban on AI in scripts. Otherwise, they fear an erosion of working conditions, compensation for rewriting scripts, royalties, secondary exploitation rights and hiring.
But it is not just screenwriters who fear that AI tools like ChatGPT could soon take over the work of freelance writers. But can AI really take over the work of professional writers such as journalists, editors, bloggers, copywriters, ghostwriters and so on? As I said at the beginning: No. But it will nonetheless permanently change the way writers work - in some areas certainly more than in others.
AI Top Disruptive Technology Among Executives
According to a Gartner survey, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is currently the most important disruptive technology among CEOs, whose impact on many areas of personal and professional life is not yet foreseeable. It is therefore not surprising that there are fears and resistance to AI and that legislators see a need for short-term action to regulate it.
At first glance, it sounds great: instead of writing long product descriptions or press releases, I can have Chat GPT do it for me in a few minutes. As a freelance copywriter, this saves me a lot of time and allows me to create more content and thus earn more money. But if I can do it as a professional, why can't my clients do it too? Let's take a closer look at this question.
Text Creation with AI: It Doesn't Work without Humans
The great strength of AI-based systems is that they can create and revise texts quickly, saving time. But not everything that is produced is correct or useful. To illustrate this, let's take an example: ChatGPT is asked to create a short product description for strawberry jam and receives the following prompt:
Write me a 200 character product description for strawberry jam.
Enjoy the full flavour of sun-ripened strawberries in our delicious jam. Hand picked and made with no artificial additives. The perfect spread for a fruity start to the day!
It doesn't sound bad at first, but there's a problem: Let's assume that the strawberry jam in question does contain artificial additives. If you've ever written a product description for an online shop, you'll know that you can't make any untrue claims, because the competition will use that as grounds for a cease-and-desist letter. Let's also assume that the product is organic, which should be emphasised in the text. So you need to adjust the text prompt, enter relevant features and keywords, and then check the result for accuracy.
CNET and the Failed AI Experiment
Artificial intelligence is becoming increasingly important not only in advertising and PR copywriting, but also in journalism. However, the example of the US magazine CNET shows that there are limits to working with AI programmes: According to its own statement, CNET started an experiment in November 2022 in which around 75 articles on financial basics for CNET Money were created by an AI. The result: the articles contained numerous errors. The magazine Futurism summed it up aptly in a headline: CNET is now letting an AI write articles for its site. The problem? It's kind of a moron.
The limits of artificial intelligence lie not only in factual accuracy, but also in privacy. We looked at the dangers of AI in the following article: The Potential For Abuse of Artificial Intelligence
This experiment shows once again the greatest weakness of working with artificial intelligence: the fewer specifications and details the input contains, the more inventive the programme, which does not work with facts but with probabilities, has to become when in doubt. On the one hand, this can lead to making up facts and, on the other, to using them as the basis for justifications and deductions. The result is errors based on errors. The quality of AI-generated texts therefore depends mainly on two factors:
1.How good and detailed the prompt is.
2.How comprehensive and up-to-date the training data is on the topic in question.
This again illustrates why artificial intelligence is relatively stupid without human guidance.
The German Association of Journalists (DJV) has also recognised the weaknesses of working with artificial intelligence and released a position paper on the use of AI in journalism. The first three points summarise the importance of human control when using AI in the production of texts:
AI Is Not a Substitute for Human Performance
This point is about the fact that while artificial intelligence programmes can change the way journalism is done, there is always a need for human control. This applies to proofreading, but also to research and the gathering of data and sources that goes with it.
Responsibility for Content Lies with Publishers
On the one hand, AI-generated texts must be checked by journalists; on the other hand, responsibility for the accuracy of the facts presented in the text lies with the publishers. The DJV therefore advocates the appointment of commissioners who are responsible for the texts created and published with AI and who also act as contact persons.
Responsible Handling of Data
This means that the collected data on which the AI-generated texts are based must be checked for accuracy - both in the research and in the publication of the texts. In addition, the DJV calls on publishers to build up their own databases in order to reduce their dependence on commercial big tech companies.
Verifying the claims made in AI-generated texts is not only a journalistic duty - it is also an absolute must, especially for freelancers and the self-employed! Because: If you write an article for a magazine or a company blog, for example, you can be held liable for any errors it contains. You should therefore always be able to cite reliable sources for what you say.
In addition to incorrect facts, it can also happen, especially in journalistic publications, that the people, institutions or companies mentioned in your text dispute the claims or theories you put forward in it. In the worst case, legal action may even be taken against passages in your texts. A recent example of this is the legal dispute that Till Lindemann, frontman of the band Rammstein, has been having with various media companies and content creators since July 2023.
Liability risk Copyright infringement
There are still big questions about where AI programs get their training data from - and how the data they input is processed. Therefore, especially if you have complete text passages written by a tool like ChatGPT, you should check them not only for accuracy, but also for originality. There are good free tools for this, such as PlagAware or Scribbr.
The answer to the question of whether artificial intelligence will (or can) soon take over your work as a freelance writer is a resounding "no". But there are risks associated with the use of AI, and of course there are many other risks that can put your business at risk: Claims for damages (e.g. for spelling mistakes in copy or misquoted sources in articles) or even written warnings, e.g. for infringement.
In this case, Professional Indemnity Insurance through exali is at your side. It covers freelancers and self-employed in the field of copywriting - regardless of whether you work as a copywriter, journalist, blogger, scriptwriter or ghostwriter. Even if all of these areas are part of your job. And, of course, the use of AI and AI tools in writing is already covered as part of exali's comprehensive cover.
The benefits of exali Professional Indemnity at a glance:
- Cover for slight and gross negligence
- Protection in the event of claims by third parties, such as clients, or if companies or individuals complain about your coverage.
- Protection in the event of written warnings and copyright infringement (including by AI)
- Loss of sales and damage caused by your customers' delays are also covered.
- Worldwide coverage
- Cover for third party cyber damage
Do you have any questions about Professional Indemnity through exali? Our customer service will be happy to assist you on +49 (0) 821 80 99 46-0 (available Monday to Friday from 9 am to 6 pm (CET)).
You can't do without humans - but that doesn't mean artificial intelligence can't help freelance copywriters and editors.
Using AI Tools to Improve Writing Quality
Consider the following scenario: You are asked to write an article about how AI tools will change the way freelance writers work, and you notice that you use the word "AI tool" in almost every other sentence. This is where a tool like ChatGPT can help with a simple prompt: Give me alternatives to the word AI tool! The chatbot will immediately come up with 15 alternative phrases for the word "tool", not all of which will make sense or be appropriate to the text, but at least they will give you good ideas for other words.
These three AI programs can assist you with producing better texts and work faster as a freelance copywriter or editor.
Work Faster with Artificial Intelligence
As well as improving the quality of copy, AI-based tools can also help freelance writers with their copywriting, even taking over entire tasks. Copywriters, in particular, will be familiar with the problem of having to create different versions of product descriptions to avoid duplicating content. ChatGPT can help by creating different versions of the same text. A chatbot can also help with writing articles, for example by suggesting an outline.
As mentioned above, the support provided by AI programmes depends primarily on how detailed the prompts are. The more specifications the tool receives - for example, how many points the outline must contain, what should be covered thematically, or which phrases can be exchanged - the higher the quality of the result. This is why many AI experts believe that prompting - the optimisation of text prompts - will be an important part of the skill set of content professionals in the future.
Using AI Programs to Generate Ideas
Artificial intelligence may not be able to do all the research, but it can help with idea generation. For example, someone who wants to write a piece on a particular topic can be inspired by a chatbot by asking, for example: "What are the most interesting aspects of topic XY?" Of course, not everything an AI programme provides is always appropriate or useful - it is up to humans to decide which answers are helpful and usable and which are not.
One of the biggest issues surrounding the use of AI for text generation is the question of who owns the copyright. After all, copyright requires a creative effort, and AI produces text - just like images - based on training data and input. The question of who ultimately owns the copyright and the rights of use to a text - the person who provides the input or the programme that generates a text based on it - is currently the subject of heated debate around the world. In most countries, copyright is defined as "personal intellectual creation".
We have already covered copyright and AI tools in detail in this article, including the risk of copyright infringement of AI-generated text: Do AI-based Texts Violate Copyright?
Consequently, only texts created by a human being are protected by copyright. Artificial intelligence is therefore not the author in the legal sense - but on the other hand, the users of AI programmes are not the creators of the content either. As a result, AI-generated content is not subject to copyright, and therefore there are generally no property rights in it, as would be the case with human-generated text or images. This means that freelance copywriters cannot grant their clients (exclusive) rights of use, meaning that third parties, for example, could legally use these texts for their own purposes.
As a freelance copywriter, there are a number of risks - such as copyright infringement, inadequate research and others. We have summarised the main ones in the following article: 5 Risks Freelance Copywriters Should Be Aware of.
There is also a risk that AI-generated content will infringe an existing copyright, for example if the content created is too close to copyrighted works. This could lead to written warnings and claims for damages. However, legal opinions on this are controversial. As there is currently a large legal grey area when it comes to AI-generated text, freelancers should consider the following points when creating text:
To What Extent Has Artificial Intelligence Been Used?
There is a difference between having an AI programme search for alternative words or phrases and having it generate a complete text. In the former case, you are still the creator of the text; in the latter, it is difficult. There is also currently no clear answer to the question of to what extent you remain the author if you have different versions of a text created by an AI tool.
Consultation with Clients
Our advice if you want to use artificial intelligence to create full texts or alternative text versions: Discuss this with your clients beforehand. If the client prohibits the use of AI tools for anything more than inspiration in wording or structure, abide by that. We also recommend that you always put these agreements in writing - that way you have something to fall back on if there are any disputes later.
Daniela has been working in the areas of (online) editing, social media and online marketing since 2008. At exali, she is particularly concerned with the following topics: Risks through digital platforms and social media, cyber dangers for freelancers and IT risk coverage.
In addition to her work as an online editor at exali, she works as a freelance editor and therefore knows the challenges of self-employment from her own experience.