The New York Times is considering legal action against OpenAI, the organization behind ChatGPT, amid escalating copyright tensions. The newspaper's lawyers are investigating the possibility of suing OpenAI to safeguard the intellectual property rights linked to its journalistic content. This development follows weeks of intense discussions between the two entities about a potential licensing agreement. The aim was for OpenAI to compensate the Times for using its articles to train the AI tools. However, these talks have reached a point of contention, prompting the newspaper to contemplate legal measures.
Rising Concerns Over Generative AI and Copyright
OpenAI has recently faced lawsuits from various parties, including comedian Sarah Silverman and several U.S. novelists, who accuse the company of copyright infringement. The central issue for the Times is the perception that ChatGPT might be indirectly competing with the newspaper by generating text based on the original work of its journalists. This concern is amplified by the integration of generative AI tools into search engines, such as Microsoft Bing, which now utilizes a tweaked version of ChatGPT. If users receive AI-generated summaries based on the Times' reporting during online searches, the incentive to visit the newspaper's website could decrease.
Generative AI models, like ChatGPT, which is built on OpenAI´s GTP-4 large language model (LLM), gather vast amounts of data from the internet, often without explicit permission. The legality of this data collection remains uncertain. If OpenAI is deemed to have breached any copyrights, the law permits the infringing articles to be discarded at the conclusion of the case.
Legal experts anticipate that AI companies will likely resort to the “fair use doctrine” as a defense, which permits the utilization of copyrighted works under specific circumstances, such as education and news reporting. However, the outcome of these legal battles remains to be seen.
Overview of OpenAI´s Legal Challenges
July 14, 2023: FTC Probes OpenAI's ChatGPT about Concerns over Reputational Harm: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) began an investigation into OpenAI over potential “false, misleading, disparaging or harmful” statements made by ChatGPT. The FTC's inquiry is exploratory, and it's unclear what specific complaint initiated the investigation. The probe comes shortly after Sarah Silverman's lawsuit against OpenAI.
July 10, 2023: Comedian Sarah Silverman Takes on Meta and OpenAI in Copyright Infringement Lawsuit: Sarah Silverman, along with two authors, filed a lawsuit against OpenAI, alleging that the company used their content without permission or proper attribution to train ChatGPT.
June 29, 2023: OpenAI and Microsoft Accused of Scraping and Exploiting Private Data for AI Training: OpenAI faced a class action lawsuit from anonymous individuals alleging that the company misused their personal data to train its AI models. The lawsuit claims OpenAI scraped vast amounts of data from the internet, including personal information, without consent. The plaintiffs seek $3 billion in potential damages.
May 12, 2023: GitHub, Microsoft, and OpenAI Face Legal Battle as Copilot Copyright Lawsuit Continues: The lawsuit, initiated in November, alleges copyright infringement, contract violations, and other legal breaches due to the use of public source code in the development of Copilot and OpenAI Codex. While some claims were dismissed, significant aspects of the case remained, indicating a potential legal battle ahead.
January 30, 2023: Microsoft, OpenAI, and GitHub Seek for Copilot Court Case to Be Thrown Out: Microsoft and OpenAI attempted to counter a lawsuit against GitHub Copilot by requesting the courts to dismiss the case.