The New York Times has filed a lawsuit against OpenAI and Microsoft for alleged copyright infringement in a groundbreaking legal battle that could redefine the boundaries of intellectual property and AI technology.
The Wall Street Journal reports that this lawsuit represents a significant challenge in AI and media. The Times claims that without obtaining permission, Microsoft and OpenAI have used its content, including articles and reports, to train their AI tools, such as ChatGPT and Microsoft’s Copilot. According to the Times, this unauthorized usage has resulted in a diversion of web traffic and a substantial loss in licensing, advertising, and subscription revenue.
A.G. Sulzberger, the publisher of the Times, has taken a leading role in this legal battle after months of unsuccessful negotiations with Microsoft and OpenAI, and the Times had hoped to reach a fair agreement that would compensate for the use of its content and support a healthy news ecosystem. The objective was to ensure the responsibly develop generative AI technology that respects copyright laws while benefiting society.
The lawsuit argues that the defendants have evaded the costs associated with content creation by using the Times’ work without permission or compensation. Seeking damages and an injunction to prevent further use of its content, the Times also demands the destruction of datasets containing its work. The lawsuit highlights that the AI tools developed by Microsoft and OpenAI, which partially rely on the Times’ content, have significantly boosted the companies’ valuations, underscoring the financial gains derived from using proprietary intellectual property without proper compensation.
Central to the legal argument is the concept of “fair use.” Tech companies argue that content available on the open internet can be used to train AI technologies under this provision. However, the Times refutes this, claiming that the AI tools have reproduced substantial portions of its articles verbatim, exceeding the scope of fair use.
The legal claim details precise instances where ChatGPT allegedly duplicated content from the Times, citing a 2019 article about exploitative lending practices in New York City’s taxi sector as evidence of the extensive alleged copying.
This lawsuit is part of a broader trend in which authors have also filed lawsuits against AI tools that use their copyrighted works without permission. The Atlantic reports that prominent authors such as Zadie Smith, Stephen King, and Michael Pollan have accused AI language models of utilizing their works without consent. Beyond copyright infringement, the debate surrounding these lawsuits also centers on the transparency and ethics of AI development.