US newspapers sue OpenAI, Microsoft—’A critical issue for civil life’

The lawsuit alleges that OpenAI and Microsoft are stealing copyrighted articles without permission and without payment

Eight daily newspapers, including The New York Daily News and The Chicago Tribune, have filed a lawsuit against OpenAI and Microsoft, alleging that the pair are “purloining millions of the Publishers’ copyrighted articles without permission and without payment to fuel the commercialization” of their GenAI platforms and services.

OpenAI’s chatbot ChatGPT is trained using large language models (LLMs), which ingest large amounts of data, and because this data is scraped from the internet, much of it comes from online news publications. This information is then used to formulation an answer or response to the users’ prompt, often verbatim.

“Microsoft and OpenAI simply take the work product of reporters, journalists, editorial writers, editors and others … all without any regard for the efforts, much less the legal rights, of those who create and publish the news on which local communities rely,” the legal filing stated. They do this, continued the filing, “with impunity.”

Further, ChatGPT is known to “hallucinate,” the phenomenon where LLM processes perceive patterns that are nonexistent or imperceptible to human observers. This tendancy, allege the newspapers, is seriously bad for business: “Defendants’ practice of generating misinformation and then wrongfully attributing it to the publishers damages the publishers’ brands, credibility and reputation,” stated the filing.

For example, the lawsuit details an instance in which ChatGPT was asked if smoking cures asthma, to which the chatbot answered that according to The Denver Post, published research indicates that, yes, smoking can be a cure for asthma. “This issue is not just a business problem for a handful of newspaper or the newspaper industry at large,” states the suit. “It is a critical issue for civil life in America.”

While Microsoft — OpenAI’s biggest financial backer — has not yet commented on the lawsuit, a ChatGPT spokesperson said: “Along with our news partners, we see immense potential for AI tools like ChatGPT to deepen publishers’ relationships with readers and enhance the news experience.”

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