NY Times seeks billions in landmark copyright lawsuit against OpenAI and Microsoft

The New York Times has filed a lawsuit against OpenAI and Microsoft, accusing them of copyright infringement.

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The Times filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court in Manhattan (NYC) against OpenAI and its backer, Microsoft, alleging that the tech firms used the newspaper’s content without authorization to train their AI large language models (LLMs), including OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Microsoft’s Copilot.

The news media organisation claims that the defendants have been ‘free-riding’ on its investment in journalism by using their copyrighted content to create products without due compensation. The lawsuit asserts that OpenAI and Microsoft put a particular focus on the use of Times journalism in their processes due to the perceived reliability and accuracy of the material. The legal case seeks to hold both companies responsible for ‘billions of dollars in statutory damages.’

Why does it matter?

To train generative AI chatbots, AI firms scrape content accessible online, including articles produced by news organisations. The LLMs are trained on a broad range of other human-written materials, which helps them develop a substantial knowledge of language and syntax and answer questions. After a string of lawsuits by authors and writers, the Times is the first major US media organisation to sue these companies over copyright matters linked to its written works.

In addition to damages, the Times’ legal team is asking the court to destroy all LLMs, including ChatGPT, and the training datasets that rely on the publication’s copyrighted content. OpenAI and Microsoft have argued that using copyrighted works to train AI products amounts to ‘fair use.’ However, the Times counters their argument by stating that there is nothing ‘transformative’ about using proprietary content without payment to create AI products. This high-profile case creates a new battle in the increasingly heated legal fight over the unauthorised use of published works by AI systems. Courts could set a precedent that would significantly alter the current business models in generative AI.