The New York Times on Wednesday sued OpenAI and Microsoft for copyright infringement, opening a new front in the intensifying legal battle over the unauthorized use of published works to train artificial intelligence technologies.
The Times is the first major American media organization to sue the companies, the creators of ChatGPT and other popular AI platforms, over copyright issues associated with their written works. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, alleges that millions of articles published by The Times were used to train automated chatbots that now compete with the media outlet as a trusted source of information.
The demand does not include an exact monetary demand. But it says the defendants should be held liable for “billions of dollars in legal and actual damages” related to the “unlawful copying and use of the Times' exceptionally valuable works.” It also requires companies to destroy any chatbot models and training data that use Times copyrighted material.
The lawsuit could test the emerging legal contours of generative AI technologies (named for the text, images and other content they can create after learning from large data sets) and could have major implications for the industry. News. The Times is among a small number of outlets that have built successful business models on online journalism, but dozens of newspapers and magazines have been hampered by the migration of readers to the Internet.
At the same time, Open AI and other AI technology companies, which use a wide variety of online texts, from newspaper articles to poems and scripts, to train chatbots, are attracting billions of dollars in financing.
OpenAI is now valued by investors in more than 80 billion dollars. Microsoft has committed $13 billion to OpenAI and has incorporated the company's technology into its Bing search engine.
“Defendants seek to take advantage of the Times' enormous investment in its journalism,” the lawsuit says, accusing OpenAI and Microsoft of “using the Times' content without payment to create products that replace the Times and steal its audience.”
The defendants have not been given the opportunity to respond in court.
Concerns about the 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 virtually any message.
The actress Sarah Silverman joined a pair of lawsuits in July that accused Meta and OpenAI of having “ingested” his memoirs as training text for AI programs. Novelists expressed alarm when it was revealed that artificial intelligence systems had absorbed tens of thousands of books, leading to a lawsuit from the authors including Jonathan Franzen and John Grisham. Getty Images, the photography union, defendant an artificial intelligence company that generates images based on written prompts, claiming that the platform relies on the unauthorized use of Getty's copyrighted visual materials.
The lawsuit filed Wednesday apparently follows an impasse in negotiations involving The Times, Microsoft and OpenAI. In its complaint, The Times said it approached Microsoft and OpenAI in April to raise concerns about the use of its intellectual property and explore “an amicable resolution,” possibly involving a trade deal and “technological guardrails” around the products. of generative AI, but that the talks did not reach any resolution.
In addition to seeking to protect intellectual property, The Times' lawsuit presents 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 that build on previous journalism from The Times. The newspaper expresses concern that readers will be satisfied with a chatbot response and decline to visit the Times website, thereby reducing web traffic that can translate into advertising and subscription revenue.
The complaint cites several examples in which a chatbot provided users with near-verbatim excerpts from Times articles that would otherwise require a paid subscription to view. It claims that OpenAI and Microsoft placed special emphasis on using Times journalism in training their AI programs because of the perceived reliability and accuracy of the material.
Media organizations have spent the past year examining the legal, financial and journalistic implications of the rise of generative AI. Some media outlets have already reached agreements for the use of their journalism: The Associated Press reached a licensing agreement in July with OpenAI, and Axel Springer, the German publisher that owns Politico and Business Insider, followed suit this month. The terms of those agreements were not disclosed.
The Times is also exploring how to use the nascent technology. The newspaper recently hired editorial director of artificial intelligence initiatives to establish protocols for the use of AI in newsrooms and examine ways to integrate the technology into the company's journalism.
In an example of how AI systems use Times material, the lawsuit showed that Browse With Bing, a Microsoft search feature powered by ChatGPT, reproduced almost word-for-word results from Wirecutter, the product review site. of the Times. However, Bing's text results did not link to the Wirecutter article and removed the in-text referral links that Wirecutter uses to generate sales commissions based on its recommendations.
“Decreased traffic to Wirecutter articles and, in turn, decreased traffic to affiliate links subsequently lead to a loss of revenue for Wirecutter,” the complaint states.
The lawsuit also highlights potential damage to the Times' brand through so-called AI “hallucinations.” a phenomenon in which chatbots insert false information that is then misattributed to a source. The complaint cites several instances in which Microsoft's Bing Chat provided incorrect information said to have come from The Times, including results for “the 15 most heart-healthy foods,” 12 of which were not mentioned in a newspaper 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 reads. He adds: “Less journalism will be produced and the cost to society will be enormous.”
The Times has hired the law firm Susman Godfrey as its lead outside counsel for the litigation. Susman represented Dominion Voting Systems in his defamation case against Fox News, which resulted in a $787.5 million settlement in April. susman also presented a class-action lawsuit proposed last month against Microsoft and OpenAI on behalf of nonfiction authors whose books and other copyrighted material were used to train the companies' chatbots.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.
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