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News Outlets Confront OpenAI Over Unlicensed Journalism Usage

News Outlets Confront OpenAI Over Unlicensed Journalism Usage

In a legal showdown, digital news outlets The Intercept, Raw Story, and AlterNet have filed a copyright-infringement lawsuit against OpenAI, the owner of ChatGPT, for unlicensed use of their journalism.

This legal action highlights the growing tension between the news industry and AI developers over the unauthorized exploitation of journalistic content.

Also read: OpenAI Claims The New York Times “Hacked” ChatGPT To Develop A Copyright Case

The heart of the matter

At the core of the dispute is the accusation that OpenAI utilized thousands of news stories from the plaintiffs to train its chatbots. These AI systems, designed to respond to user inquiries, are said to mimic the journalistic content they were fed, potentially misleading users about the origin of the information provided. The lawsuit underscores a growing concern within the already struggling news industry about the financial implications of such practices.

“When providing responses, ChatGPT gives the impression that it is an all-knowing,intelligent” source of the information being provided, when in reality, the responses are frequently based on copyrighted works.”

While some organizations, like The Associated Press, have negotiated licensing agreements with OpenAI, others have found themselves at an impasse. The New York Times, for instance, filed a similar lawsuit after failed negotiations, aiming to either halt the alleged infringement or secure compensation. This collective action by news outlets signals a broader industry pushback against what they perceive as unauthorized exploitation of their work.

Copyright protection and AI

The lawsuit filed in the US District Court in the Southern District of New York highlights a significant challenge for digital publications. Unlike print outlets, which can register a copyright for their material in bulk, digital entities lack a straightforward mechanism for such protections. Yet, The Intercept, Raw Story, and AlterNet attorneys argue that their content is inherently protected by copyright law, even without formal registration.

Although the case revolves around the media business, authors like Sarah Silverman have also filed similar lawsuits against OpenAI for copyright infringement. The Intercept’s choice to name Microsoft as one of the defendants, due to its large investment in OpenAI, has made the case more complex. AlterNet and Raw Story, however, haven’t pursued Microsoft in a lawsuit because of their partnerships with the company.

The stakes are high

The lawsuit seeks a minimum of $2,500 in damages for each alleged instance of unauthorized use, a sum that underscores the financial toll the news outlets believe they have endured. Annie Chabel, CEO of The Intercept, voiced a sentiment shared by many in the industry, emphasizing the injustice of AI developers benefiting from the hard work of journalists, especially as newsrooms nationwide face severe financial constraints.

“Plaintiff The Intercept Media, Inc., is a news organization and brings this lawsuit seeking actual damages and defendants’ profits, or statutory damages of no less than $2500 per violation.”

This legal action is not just about compensation; it’s a stand for the rights of journalists and the integrity of the news industry at large. As AI continues to evolve, the outcome of this lawsuit could set a precedent for how journalistic content is used to train and operate AI systems, ensuring that the creators of original content are duly recognized and rewarded.

As the case unfolds, one pivotal question remains: Will this lawsuit prompt a reevaluation of the ethical and legal standards governing AI’s use of copyrighted material, or will it open the door to more contentious battles between the tech industry and content creators?

Image credits: Shutterstock, CC images, Midjourney, Unsplash.

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