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Media Clash: The New York Times Fires Legal Salvo Against OpenAI and Microsoft Over AI’s Unauthorised Journalism Use

In a bold move, The New York Times has taken legal action against tech giants OpenAI and Microsoft, filing a lawsuit in a US court on Wednesday. The venerable news organisation accuses the creators of ChatGPT, OpenAI, and its investor Microsoft of utilising millions of articles without permission for training their powerful AI models.

According to the lawsuit, these companies are attempting to exploit The Times’ substantial investment in journalism, using it to develop substitutive products without proper authorization or compensation. This legal confrontation signifies a departure from the approach adopted by some media groups, like Germany’s Axel Springer or the Associated Press, which have opted for content deals with OpenAI.

The lawsuit seeks not only damages but also an injunction demanding that the companies cease using The Times’ content immediately and destroy any data already collected. While the exact monetary claim is unspecified, The Times suggests that the infringement could potentially result in ‘billions of dollars in statutory and actual damages’.

Both OpenAI and Microsoft have not responded to immediate requests for comment. Microsoft, as the world’s second-largest company by market capitalisation, heavily invested in OpenAI and swiftly integrated AI capabilities into its products following the release of ChatGPT last year.

The lawsuit, filed in a federal court in New York, argues that the unauthorised use of The Times’ work to build AI products poses a significant threat to its ability to provide quality journalism. The newspaper asserts that ChatGPT and Microsoft’s Copilot, formerly Bing, were trained on internet content without proper compensation.

A spokesperson for The Times emphasized, ‘These tools were built with and continue to use independent journalism and content that is only available because we and our peers reported, edited, and fact-checked it at high cost and with considerable expertise’.

The legal action alleges that the content generated by ChatGPT and Copilot closely mimics The New York Times’ style, with instances of false information incorrectly attributed to the reputable news source. The lawsuit disputes the claim of the technology being “transformative,” arguing that using The Times’ content without payment creates products that substitute for and steal audiences away from the newspaper.

This legal battle adds The New York Times to a growing list of content creators taking on emerging AI giants. Notably, last year, authors, including ‘Game of Thrones’ creator George RR Martin, filed a class-action lawsuit against OpenAI, accusing the company of violating copyrights to fuel ChatGPT. Similar legal challenges have been brought against other AI players, signaling a broader trend of concern over the use of copyrighted material to train AI systems.

As lawsuits mount, Microsoft and AI powerhouse Google have announced their commitment to providing legal protection for customers facing allegations of copyright infringement over content generated by their AI systems. The outcome of The New York Times’ lawsuit will likely have far-reaching implications for the evolving landscape of AI and copyright law.  

Vakilsearch legal experts emphasise the pivotal role of copyright protection in safeguarding journalistic integrity. They assert that this lawsuit marks a crucial moment in defining the boundaries of AI use and copyright, urging industries to proactively secure permissions for content utilisation.

Akash G Varadaraj