BBC on its official website has reported that The New York Times has filed a high-profile lawsuit against OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT, and tech giant Microsoft, alleging massive copyright infringement. The lawsuit, lodged in a Manhattan federal court, demands “billions of dollars” in damages, accusing both entities of using the newspaper’s copyrighted content without permission to train ChatGPT.
The Core of the Controversy
The lawsuit claims that “millions” of New York Times articles were utilized to enhance ChatGPT’s capabilities, arguing that the AI model is now competing directly with the newspaper as a credible source of information. Significantly, it alleges that ChatGPT sometimes generates “verbatim excerpts” from the newspaper’s articles, which are typically behind a paywall, thereby bypassing the need for subscriptions and undermining the newspaper’s revenue streams.
Impact on Search Engines
Additionally, the lawsuit highlights how Microsoft’s Bing search engine, incorporating features powered by ChatGPT, displays results derived from New York Times-owned content without proper attribution or referral links, further denting the newspaper’s income.
A Series of Legal Battles
This lawsuit is the latest in a series of legal challenges faced by OpenAI in 2023. Earlier, prominent authors like George R.R. Martin and John Grisham, comedian Sarah Silverman, and other creatives like Margaret Atwood and Philip Pullman have taken legal action or voiced concerns over AI companies using their work without compensation. Similarly, a group of computing experts has sued OpenAI and Microsoft, alongside GitHub, over the AI program Copilot, which they claim uses their code without permission.
Broader Industry Implications
These lawsuits underscore growing unease about the ethical and legal implications of generative AI technologies. Companies like Stability AI and Midjourney have also faced legal action from artists alleging that their text-to-image generators operate by training on copyrighted artwork.
OpenAI and Microsoft’s Position
While both OpenAI and Microsoft have not yet publicly responded to the New York Times lawsuit, they have previously emphasized their commitment to ethical AI development. Microsoft’s significant investment in OpenAI, exceeding $10 billion, indicates the strategic importance of AI for the tech giant.
Seeking Amicable Solutions
It’s noteworthy that the New York Times had attempted to resolve the issue with Microsoft and OpenAI amicably in April, before resorting to legal action. This move reflects the complexity and novelty of the legal questions surrounding AI and copyright law.
A Turning Point for AI and Copyright Law
This legal battle represents a critical juncture in the evolving relationship between AI technology and traditional content creators. The outcomes of these lawsuits could set important precedents for how AI companies use publicly available data and content, potentially reshaping the legal landscape for AI development and usage.