Major News Publishers Sue Microsoft and OpenAI Over Copyright Infringement

The Allegations

A coalition of major news publishers has filed a lawsuit against tech giants Microsoft and OpenAI, accusing the companies of using copyrighted content unlawfully to train their generative artificial intelligence (AI) models. These models include OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Microsoft’s Copilot.

The publishers, led by Alden Global Capital (AGC) and including notable entities such as the Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News, and Orlando Sentinel, allege that Microsoft and OpenAI used millions of their copyrighted articles without permission or payment, essentially pilfering their content to commercialise their AI products.

The lawsuit claims the AI products can reproduce the publishers’ content verbatim shortly after publication, without providing obvious links back to the original sources. Furthermore, the publishers accuse the AI models of “hallucinating” inaccurate information and attributing it to their publications.

“This lawsuit is about how Microsoft and OpenAI are not entitled to use copyrighted newspaper content to build their new trillion-dollar enterprises without paying for that content,” the publishers stated.

Context and Precedent

This legal action builds on precedents set by previous lawsuits against these tech companies, alleging misuse of copyrighted content to build large language models (LLMs) that power AI technologies. In a separate lawsuit filed last year, The New York Times claimed that Microsoft and OpenAI utilised almost a century’s worth of the Times’ copyrighted material to allow their AI model to mimic its expressive style, without a licensing agreement.

While Microsoft dismissed the Times’ claims as “doomsday futurology” arguing that generative AI wouldn’t pose a threat to independent journalism, the AGC publications suggested otherwise. They believe OpenAI and Microsoft are profiting immensely from the unauthorized use of copyrighted works.

The Demands and The Future

The publishers are demanding unspecified damages and an order for Microsoft and OpenAI to destroy any generative transformer (GPT) and LLM models using their copyrighted content. This unprecedented action pushes the boundaries of the ongoing legal discourse surrounding AI and copyright infringement.

Meanwhile, OpenAI recently entered a licensing partnership with The Financial Times allowing the lawful integration of the newspaper’s content. Even so, this latest lawsuit raises significant questions about the tensions between tech companies developing generative AI and content creators concerned about unchecked use of their content without compensation.

As the lines between AI innovation and copyright infringement become blurred, this legal battle could serve as a turning point in determining how future AI technology handles and compensates for the use of copyrighted content.


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