The New York Times filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against OpenAI and Microsoft on Wednesday, opening a new front in the increasingly intense legal battle over the unauthorized use of published works to train artificial intelligence technologies.
The Times is the first major US media organization to sue the companies and creators of ChatGPT and other popular AI platforms, over copyright issues related to its written works. The lawsuit was filed in Federal District Court in ManhattanMillions of articles published by The Times were allegedly used to train automated chatbots that now compete with the media as a source of reliable information.
The lawsuit does not include a specific monetary demand. But it says the defendants should be liable for “billions of dollars in statutory and actual damages” related to the “unlawful copying and use of uniquely valuable Times works.” It also calls on companies to destroy any chatbot models and training data that use copyrighted material from The Times.
Representatives for OpenAI and Microsoft could not immediately be reached for comment.
This lawsuit could test the emerging legal lines of generative AI techniques — so-called text, images and other content that can be generated after learning from large data sets — and could have big implications for the news industry. The Times is among a handful of media outlets that have built successful business models from online journalism, but dozens of newspapers and magazines have been hampered by the migration of readers to the Internet.
At the same time, OpenAI and other AI technology companies — which use a wide range of online texts, from newspaper articles to poems to screenplays, to train chatbots — are attracting billions of dollars in funding.
OpenAI is now valued by investors at more than $80 billion. Microsoft has committed $13 billion to OpenAI and has integrated the company's technology into its Bing search engine.
“Defendants seek to free-ride on the Times’s massive investment in its journalism,” the complaint says, accusing OpenAI and Microsoft of “using Times content without compensation to create products that replace the Times and steal audiences from it.”
The defendants did not have the opportunity to respond in court.
Concerns about uncompensated use of intellectual property by AI systems have spread across the creative industries, given the technology's ability to mimic natural language and generate sophisticated written responses to almost any prompt.
Actress Sarah Silverman joined two lawsuits in July that accused Meta and OpenAI of “handling” her memoirs as training text for artificial intelligence programs. Novelists expressed alarm when it was revealed that AI systems had ingested tens of thousands of books, leading to a lawsuit by authors including Jonathan Franzen and John Grisham. Photography guild Getty Images has filed a lawsuit against an artificial intelligence company that produces images based on written prompts, saying the platform relies on unauthorized use of Getty's copyrighted visual material.
The lawsuit filed Wednesday appears to follow a deadlock in negotiations involving The Times, Microsoft, and OpenAI. The Times said in its complaint that it contacted Microsoft and OpenAI in April to raise concerns about the use of its intellectual property and explore an “amicable solution” — perhaps including a commercial agreement and “technological barriers” around its generative AI products — but that the talks did not reach a resolution.
Besides seeking to protect intellectual property, the Times' lawsuit names ChatGPT and other artificial intelligence systems as potential competitors in the news business. When chatbots are asked about current events or other newsworthy topics, they can generate answers based on The Times's previous journalism. The newspaper is concerned that readers will be satisfied with the chatbot's response and refuse to visit the Times' website, reducing web traffic that could translate into advertising and subscription revenue.
The complaint cites several examples when the chatbot provided users with near-verbatim excerpts of Times articles that would require a paid subscription to view. She stresses that OpenAI and Microsoft have placed particular emphasis on using Times journalism to train their AI programs because of the reliability and accuracy of the material.
Media organizations have spent the past year examining the legal, financial and journalistic implications of the AI boom, and some media outlets have already reached agreements to use their journalism: Associated Press A licensing deal was concluded In July, OpenAI and Axel Springer, the German publisher that owns Politico and Business Insider, did the same. This month. The terms of those agreements were not disclosed.
After the Axel Springer deal was announced, an OpenAI spokesperson said the company respects “the rights of content creators and owners and believes they should benefit from AI technology,” adding: “We are optimistic that we will continue to find mutually beneficial ways to work.” Together to support a rich news ecosystem.
The Times also explores how emerging technology can be used. Newspaper Recently rented Managing Editor for AI Initiatives to develop protocols for newsroom use of AI and study ways to integrate the technology into corporate journalism.
In one example of how AI systems used The Times' materials, the suit showed that Browsing with Bing, a Microsoft search feature powered by ChatGPT, reproduced almost verbatim results from Wirecutter, The Times' product review site. However, the text results from Bing did not link to the Wirecutter article, and they removed the referral links in the text that Wirecutter uses to generate commissions from sales based on its recommendations.
“The decrease in traffic to Wirecutter articles, and thus the decrease in traffic to affiliate links, subsequently results in a loss of Wirecutter revenue,” the complaint states.
The lawsuit also highlights the potential damage to The Times' brand through so-called “AI hallucination,” a phenomenon in which chatbots input false information that is falsely attributed to a source. The complaint cites several instances in which Microsoft's Bing Chat service provided incorrect information that was said to have come from The Times, including results for the “15 Most Heart-Healthy Foods,” 12 of which were not mentioned in the Times article.
“If The Times and other news organizations cannot produce and protect their independent journalism, there will be a void that no computer or artificial intelligence can fill,” the complaint said. “Less journalism will be produced, and the cost to society will be enormous,” he adds.
The Times has retained the law firm Susman Godfrey as lead outside counsel on this lawsuit. Sussman represented Dominion Voting Systems in its defamation case against Fox News, which resulted in a $787.5 million settlement in April. Sussman Also provided A class action lawsuit was proposed last month against Microsoft and OpenAI on behalf of nonfiction authors whose books and other copyrighted materials were used to train the companies' chatbots.
Benjamin Mullen Contributed to reports.
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