The New York Times sues OpenAI and Microsoft for using copyrighted works

The New York Times sued OpenAI and Microsoft for copyright infringement on Wednesday, opening a new front in the escalating legal battle over the unauthorized use of published works to train artificial intelligence technologies.

The Times is the first major U.S. 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 Manhattan Federal District Courtreports that millions of articles published by the Times were used to train automated chatbots that now rival the news outlet as a source of trusted news.

The suit does not include an exact monetary demand. But it says the defendants should be held liable for “billions of dollars in statutory and actual damages” related to “the illegal copying and use of The Times’ uniquely valuable works.” It also calls on companies to destroy all chatbot models and training data that use material copyrighted by The Times.

Microsoft declined to comment on the matter. OpenAI did not immediately provide comment.

The lawsuit could test the emerging legal contours of generative AI technologies – so called for the text, images and other content they can create after learning from large data sets – and could have major implications for the technology industry. the information. The Times is one of a small number 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 variety of online text, from newspaper articles to poems to screenplays, to train chatbots – are attracting billions of dollars from funding.

OpenAI is now valued by investors at more than $80 billion. Microsoft committed $13 billion to OpenAI and integrated the company’s technology into its Bing search engine.

“Defendants seek to profit from the Times’ massive investment in its journalism,” the complaint states, accusing OpenAI and Microsoft of “using Times content without payment to create products that replace the Times and steal audiences.” .

The defendants were not given the opportunity to respond in court.

Concerns about uncompensated use of intellectual property by AI systems have become widespread across the creative industries, given the technology’s ability to imitate natural language and generate sophisticated written responses to virtually any what a prompt.

Actress Sarah Silverman joined two lawsuits in July accusing Meta and OpenAI of “ingesting” her memoir as training text for AI programs. Novelists expressed concern when it was revealed that AI systems had swallowed up tens of thousands of books, leading to lawsuits from authors including Jonathan Franzen and John Grisham. Getty Images, the photography union, has sued an AI company that generates images based on written prompts, claiming the platform relies on unauthorized use of Getty’s copyrighted visual material .

The lawsuit filed Wednesday apparently follows an impasse in negotiations involving the Times, Microsoft and OpenAI. In its complaint, the Times said it contacted Microsoft and OpenAI in April to raise concerns about the use of its intellectual property and explore “an amicable resolution” – possibly involving a commercial agreement and “safeguards”. tech crazies” around generative AI products – but this talks resulted in no resolution.

In addition to seeking to protect intellectual property, the Times’ lawsuit presents ChatGPT and other AI systems as potential competitors in the news industry. When chatbots are asked about the news or other trending topics, they can generate answers that draw on past Times journalism. The newspaper is concerned that readers will settle for a response from a chatbot and refuse to visit the Times website, thereby reducing web traffic that can translate into advertising and subscription revenue.

The complaint cites several examples where a chatbot provided users with near-verbatim excerpts from Times articles that would otherwise require a paid subscription to view. He claims that OpenAI and Microsoft have placed particular emphasis on using Times journalism in training their AI programs because of the hardware’s perceived reliability and accuracy.

Media outlets have spent the last 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 entered into a licensing agreement in July with OpenAI, and Axel Springer, the German publisher that owns Politico and Business Insider, did the same. this month. The terms of these 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 and will continue to find mutually beneficial ways to work. together to support a rich information ecosystem.

The Times is also exploring how to use the emerging technology. The newspaper recently hired an editorial director of artificial intelligence initiatives to establish protocols for the newsroom’s use of AI and examine ways to integrate the technology into the company’s journalism.

In an example of how AI systems use Times documents, the lawsuit showed that Browse With Bing, a Microsoft search feature powered by ChatGPT, reproduced results almost verbatim from Wirecutter, the review site for Times products. However, Bing’s text results did not link to the Wirecutter article and they removed the in-text referral links that Wirecutter uses to generate commissions on sales based on its recommendations.

“Decreased traffic to Wirecutter articles and, therefore, decreased traffic to affiliate links, subsequently resulting in loss of revenue for Wirecutter,” the complaint states.

The lawsuit also highlights the potential damage to the Times’ brand from so-called AI “hallucinations,” a phenomenon in which chatbots insert false information that is then wrongly attributed to a source . The complaint cites several instances in which Microsoft’s Bing Chat provided incorrect information allegedly from the Times, including results for “the 15 healthiest foods for the heart,” 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 says. He adds: “Less journalism will be produced and the cost to society will be enormous. »

The Times has retained the law firm Susman Godfrey as lead outside counsel for the litigation. Susman represented Dominion Voting Systems in its defamation case against Fox News, which resulted in a $787.5 million settlement in April. Susman also filed a proposed class action lawsuit 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 Mullin reports contributed.