Another Suit on AI Use of Copyrighted News

A new front has opened up in the ongoing battle between tech giants and content creators. Eight major daily newspapers owned by Alden Global Capital have sued OpenAI and Microsoft, accusing the tech behemoths of illegally using millions of copyrighted news articles to train their AI chatbots, including the ChatGPT and Microsoft’s Copilot.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in the Southern District of New York, alleges that the chatbots regularly reproduce the full text of articles that are typically hidden behind subscription paywalls. By making this content freely available, the publishers argue, the need for readers to pay for subscriptions is reduced, depriving the newspapers of a crucial revenue stream. Furthermore, the complaint asserts that the chatbots often fail to prominently link back to the original source, further diminishing the potential for subscription conversions and licensing opportunities.

But the grievances extend beyond mere financial concerns. The newspapers claim that the AI models have, on occasion, falsely attributed inaccurate or misleading information to their publications, tarnishing their hard-earned reputations and potentially contributing to the spread of dangerous misinformation. One egregious example cited in the complaint involves ChatGPT recommending a recalled infant lounger linked to infant deaths, falsely claiming that The Chicago Tribune had endorsed the product.

In a scathing statement, Frank Pine, the executive editor overseeing the Alden newspapers, pulled no punches: “We’ve spent billions of dollars gathering information and reporting news at our publications, and we can’t allow OpenAI and Microsoft to expand the Big Tech playbook of stealing our work to build their own businesses at our expense.”

OpenAI, for its part, claims it was “not previously aware” of Alden’s concerns but remains optimistic about the potential for AI tools like ChatGPT to “deepen publishers’ relationships with readers and enhance the news experience.” Microsoft, meanwhile, has declined to comment on the lawsuit.

This legal battle is just the latest skirmish in the broader war over the use of copyrighted data to power the generative AI revolution. As a recent New York Times investigation revealed, numerous tech companies have pushed ethical boundaries and skirted copyright laws in their frantic quest to obtain as much data as possible to train their AI models.

While some publishers have chosen to strike deals with the tech giants, granting them access to their content in exchange for compensation, others have taken a more adversarial stance. The New York Times itself sued OpenAI and Microsoft in December, accusing them of using copyrighted articles to train chatbots that now compete with the paper as a source of news and information.

As the Alden lawsuit notes, “This issue is not just a business problem for a handful of newspapers or the newspaper industry at large. It is a critical issue for civic life in America.” With the future of journalism and the free flow of accurate information hanging in the balance, the outcome of this legal clash could have far-reaching implications for us all.