The New York Times has sued OpenAI and Microsoft for copyright infringement over the use of its content to train generative artificial intelligence tools, the publisher said on Wednesday.
The lawsuit said that OpenAI, the Microsoft-backed company behind ChatGPT and other generative artificial intelligence systems, used millions of articles published by the NYT to train automated chatbots that now compete with the news outlet as a source of reliable information.
The complaint, filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan on Wednesday, accused OpenAI and Microsoft of “using The Times’s content without payment to create products that substitute for The Times and steal audiences away from it.”
The lawsuit argued that ChatGPT and other AI systems are potential competitors in the news business which generate answers based on journalism by The Times.
It said that readers will be satisfied with a response from a chatbot and may not visit the newspaper’s website, thus resulting in advertising and subscription revenue loss.
It cited several examples when an OpenAI chatbot provided users with near-verbatim excerpts from Times articles that are only open to paid subscribers.
“If The Times and other news organizations cannot produce and protect their independent journalism, there will be a vacuum that no computer or artificial intelligence can fill,” the complaint said.
“Less journalism will be produced, and the cost to society will be enormous,” it added.
The publication said the defendants should be held responsible for “billions of dollars in statutory and actual damages” related to the “unlawful copying and use of The Times’s uniquely valuable works.”
The suit, however, did not make an exact monetary demand.
The Times reported that its lawsuit also calls for the companies to destroy any chatbot models and training data that use copyrighted material from the publisher.
The complaint said that The Times approached Microsoft and OpenAI in April to raise concerns about the use of its intellectual property and explore “an amicable resolution” but the talks had not produced a resolution.
OpenAI said in a statement that it was “surprised and disappointed” by the lawsuit.
“We’re hopeful that we will find a mutually beneficial way to work together, as we are doing with many other publishers,” an OpenAI spokesperson said.
OpenAI has also been accused of using copyrighted materials by fiction writers, with an ongoing class-action lawsuit in a US court that involves comic Sarah Silverman, and authors Christopher Golden and Richard Kadrey.
OpenAI has been, however, successful in signing an agreement with The Associated Press to use its archive of news stories.
“The arrangement sees OpenAI licensing part of AP’s text archive, while AP will leverage OpenAI’s technology and product expertise,” the two organizations said in a joint statement in July without disclosing the financial terms of the deal.
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