February 23, 2024

The New York Times (NYT) has taken legal action against OpenAI and Microsoft, alleging the unauthorized use of millions of NYT articles to train AI chatbots. 

The lawsuit, filed in Manhattan federal court against ChatGPT’s OpenAI and Microsoft, an OpenAI investor and creator of the AI platform Copilot, marks a significant move by a major U.S. media organization. 

The heart of the lawsuit revolves around the claim that OpenAI and Microsoft exploited its journalistic content without permission to develop products that compete with and divert audiences from NYT. 

This involves an attempt to benefit from the newspaper’s substantial investment in journalism.

The NYT argues that this unauthorized use is not a “transformative” application. It claims there is no fair use justification for incorporating its material into AI training sets. 

However, OpenAI and Microsoft argue that using copyrighted works for training AI falls under “fair use.” For context, fair use refers to a legal doctrine allowing unlicensed use of copyrighted material for transformative purposes. 

But the NYT disputes this, emphasizing that the alleged infringement is not transformative but rather a way for OpenAI and Microsoft to capitalize on the NYT’s journalism. 

The lawsuit does not specify damages sought but estimates damages in the billions of dollars and demands compensation for the newspaper’s substantial investment in creating high-quality journalism.

OpenAI, valued at over $80 billion, and Microsoft, with a $13 billion investment in OpenAI, are key players in the AI industry. Notably, other authors, including David Baldacci, Jonathan Franzen, John Grisham, and Scott Turow, have filed lawsuits against OpenAI and Microsoft, claiming unauthorized use of their books. 

This legal action follows similar cases. One such is the lawsuit where comedian Sarah Silverman and other authors sued OpenAI and Meta for “ingesting” their works. 

Impact on Journalism and Allegations of Misinformation

The NYT’s lawsuit emphasizes the potential negative impact of AI chatbots on journalism, asserting that these technologies make it harder for readers to distinguish fact from fiction. 

The complaint cites instances where OpenAI and Microsoft’s chatbots provided users with near-verbatim excerpts of NYT articles.

This could potentially diminish the perceived need for readers to visit the newspaper’s website. The NYT argues that this can reduce traffic, affecting advertising and subscription revenue. 

Additionally, the lawsuit highlights instances of AI-generated misinformation, such as ChatGPT falsely attributing product recommendations to the NYT’s Wirecutter website.

As the legal battle unfolds, it raises critical questions about the use of copyrighted works in training AI models and the potential impact on traditional media outlets. 

The lawsuit brings attention to the evolving landscape of AI, copyright law, and the challenges faced by content creators seeking fair compensation for their work. 

OpenAI and Microsoft, as major players in the AI industry, are now navigating legal challenges that could have far-reaching implications for the future use of copyrighted material in AI development.

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