New York Times sues OpenAI, Microsoft for copyright infringement

The New York Times is suing OpenAI and Microsoft, accusing them of using millions of the newspaper’s articles without permission to help train artificial intelligence (AI) technologies.

The Times said it is the first major U.S. media organization to sue OpenAI and Microsoft, which created ChatGPT and other AI platforms, over copyright issues.

“Defendants seek to free-ride on the Times’s massive investment in its journalism by using it to build substitutive products without permission or payment,” according to the complaint filed Wednesday in Manhattan Federal Court.

“There is nothing ‘transformative’ about using the Times’s content without payment to create products that substitute for the Times and steal audiences away from it.” 

The Times is not seeking a specific amount of damages, but said it believes OpenAI and Microsoft have caused “billions of dollars” in damages by illegally copying and using its works.

In a statement to CBC News, OpenAI said: “We respect the rights of content creators and owners and are committed to working with them to ensure they benefit from AI technology and new revenue models.

“Our ongoing conversations with The New York Times have been productive and moving forward constructively, so we are surprised and disappointed with this development. We’re hopeful that we will find a mutually beneficial way to work together, as we are doing with many other publishers.”

Investors have valued OpenAI at more than $80 billion US. None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Authors allege misuse of their books

Last September, a group of 17 prominent U.S. authors — including George R.R. Martin, John Grisham and Jodi Picoult — joined a class-action lawsuit against OpenAI, alleging the company had pirated hundreds of books online without permission or compensation.

AI systems like ChatGPT, launched in late 2022, learn to generate new content by first ingesting huge amounts of existing content — often taken from the internet. The collected material is then used to build a large-language model that can produce human-like responses to a user’s query.

In papers filed in Federal Court in New York, the authors allege “flagrant and harmful infringements of plaintiffs’ registered copyrights” and called the ChatGPT program a “massive commercial enterprise” that is reliant upon “systematic theft on a mass scale.”

The suit was organized by the Authors Guild and includes David Baldacci, Sylvia Day, Jonathan Franzen and Elin Hilderbrand, among others.

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OpenAI argued in court last summer for two similar lawsuits on copyright infringement that the training of AI systems using copyrighted material is fair use of content.

Several companies that use generative AI — including Meta Platforms and Stability AI — face similar lawsuits by writers, visual artists and source-code writers.

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