New York Times sues Microsoft and OpenAI

AI chatbots threaten ‘independent journalism’, the US paper of record has said

The New York Times filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against Microsoft and OpenAI for copyright infringement, claiming their artificial intelligence (AI) platforms represent unfair competition and a menace to the free press and society.

This is the first copyright challenge from a major American media organization, according to the Times. The newspaper has asked the federal court in Manhattan to hold the defendants responsible for “billions of dollars in statutory and actual damages” for their “unlawful copying and use of The Times’s uniquely valuable works.” It also demanded that the companies destroy any chatbot models and training data that have used the outlet’s copyrighted material.

“Defendants seek to free-ride on The Times’s massive investment in its journalism,” said the complaint, accusing Microsoft and OpenAI of “using The Times’s content without payment to create products that substitute for The Times and steal audiences away from it.”

Microsoft has reportedly committed to invest $13 billion into OpenAI and has already used some of its technology in its search engine, Bing.

In one example cited in the lawsuit, the ChatGPT-powered Browse With Bing featured results “reproduced almost verbatim” from the Times’ product review site Wirecutter, but did not attribute the content and removed the referral links used by the newspaper to generate commissions from sales, resulting in loss of revenue.

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Microsoft and OpenAI “placed particular emphasis” on using the Times’ journalism because of the “perceived reliability and accuracy of the material,” the newspaper has claimed.

“If The Times and other news organizations cannot produce and protect their independent journalism, there will be a vacuum that no computer or artificial intelligence can fill,” the complaint claimed, adding, “Less journalism will be produced, and the cost to society will be enormous.”

The US newspaper of record noted that it had approached OpenAI and Microsoft in April to explore “an amicable resolution” of the copyright issue, but without success. Several other media outlets have reached agreements with OpenAI for the use of their content, including the Associated Press and Axel Springer, the German owners of Politico and Business Insider.

The newspaper is represented by Susman Godfrey, the same law firm that has filed a proposed class action lawsuit against Microsoft and OpenAI earlier this month, and represented Dominion Voting Systems in its defamation case against Fox News related to the 2020 US presidential election.

Microsoft and OpenAI have not yet responded to the complaint.

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