NYT AI case vs OpenAI, Microsoft could be 'watershed moment' — community responds

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Another copyright infringement lawsuit hits the artificial intelligence (AI) industry – this time, however, it has been filed by legacy media outlet New York Times (NYT) against ChatGPT creator OpenAI. 

On Dec. 27, the NYT filed the lawsuit, alleging that OpenAI has unlawfully used its content to train its AI chatbots, thereby hindering the NYT from doing its work.

The lawsuit pulls from both the United States Constitution and the Copyright Act to defend the original journalism of the NYT. It also points to Microsoft’s Bing AI, alleging that it creates verbatim excerpts from its content.

“By providing Times content without The Times’s permission or authorization, Defendants’ tools undermine and damage The Times’s relationship with its readers and deprive The Times of subscription, licensing, advertising, and affiliate revenue.”

The New York Times is not the first media company to raise concerns over AI chatbots. In November, the News Media Alliance made similar claims that AI chatbots are illegally ripping copyrighted news and the developers are taking revenue, data and users from news publications.

Cecilia Ziniti, an intellectual property (IP) and AI lawyer, posted on social media that she believes this to be the “best case yet” that alleges that generative AI is committing copyright infringement.

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She highlighted a key argument in the NYT case against OpenAI and Microsoft being that the website “www.nytimes.com” is the most highly represented proprietary source, following only Wikipedia and a database of U.S. patent documents.

Source: NYT lawsuit

Another example in the lawsuit highlighted only the slightest difference, a few words, between original NYT content and output from GPT-4. 

Source: Cecilia Ziniti via X

According to the lawsuit, the NYT reached out to Microsoft and OpenAI in April 2023, intending to raise intellectual property concerns and “explore the possibility of an amicable resolution,” but to no avail. 

Ziniti posted in follow-up tweets that she has been a paid subscriber to NYT and NYT Food archives for ten years, and if ChatGPT gave her the articles and full recipes for free, “I … wouldn’t be paying NYT.”

She said the case has the potential to be a “watershed moment” for both AI and copyright. 

Meanwhile, on the OpenAI developer forum, a thread was formed regarding the lawsuit, to which the reactions were mixed.

Some users hope the NYT is “not successful” in its claims, while others said it’s an interesting situation to follow and is “worth the shot for the Times.”

Source: OpenAI developer forum

In September, the Author’s Guild – a U.S.-based guild for writers- also launched a class-action lawsuit against OpenAI, alleging misuse of copyrighted material in training its AI models.

OpenAI isn’t alone in being the object of such lawsuits. Universal Music Group sued Anthropic AI in October over copyright infringement on “vast amounts of copyrighted works – including the lyrics to myriad musical compositions” that are under the ownership or control of the publishers.

Another case has been filed by a growing group of artists against Midjourney, DeviantArt and Stability AI’s use of art to train its image-generating AI models. Initially, a U.S. judge struck the case down due to a lack of evidence. The case was then expanded and amended with more thorough allegations.

OpenAI has said they plan to cover any legal costs of business-tier ChatGPT users who find themselves in a legal battle over copyright infringement.

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