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Eight US publishers, including the New York Daily News, the Chicago Tribune and The Denver Post, have sued OpenAI and Microsoft for massive copyright infringement, according to a lawsuit filed in a New York district court.

The publishers accuse the two companies of "stealing" millions of copyrighted articles to train and run commercial AI applications like ChatGPT and Copilot without compensating the authors of the training data.

They point out that they have invested significant time and resources in local research and reporting, and that the AI companies' unlicensed and unpaid acquisition of this content not only constitutes intellectual property theft, but also threatens the very existence of local journalism as a foundation of democracy.

"The Publishers have spent billions of dollars sending real people to real places to report on real events in the real world and distribute that reporting in their print newspapers and on their digital platforms," the indictment reads.

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"Yet Defendants are taking the Publishers’ work with impunity and are using the Publishers’ journalism to create GenAI products that undermine the Publishers’ core businesses by retransmitting 'their content'—in some cases verbatim from the Publishers’ paywalled websites—to their readers."

The indictment also alleges that the AI products are often the subject of "hallucinations" in which they undermine the publishers' credibility by falsely attributing inaccurate reporting to the publishers' newspapers.

"Beyond just profiting from the theft of the Publishers’ content, Defendants are actively tarnishing the newspapers’ reputations and spreading dangerous disinformation," the indictment states.

The publishers seek recognition of their copyrights and the right to monetize their journalistic content, fair compensation for past use, damages, and an injunction to prevent further unlicensed use of their material.

The case is another significant one in the ongoing conflict between AI technology and copyright law, which is currently being addressed by the courts in various configurations. The New York Times case against OpenAI is widely considered to be the leading case for publishers on this issue.

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Who is capturing whom?

Meanwhile, OpenAI, as well as Apple and Google, are trying to win over select publishers with lucrative licensing deals. But if their chatbot-slash-content-slash-search platforms succeed, the publishers who sell licenses to them today may lose out in future rounds, just like the publishers who don't get deals today.

The more powerful the platform, the greater the dependency and the worse the position of those who distribute content on it. It's the next prisoner's dilemma.

Publishers should know better. Google, with its highly politicized and completely opaque search engine updates, continues to demonstrate how much control it has over publishers, directly impacting their revenue, how they produce and publish content, and how news and information reach the public.

With chatbot platforms or Google's SGE on the horizon, the future for publishers looks even bleaker than the current state of the industry.

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Summary
  • Eight US publishers, including the New York Daily News and the Chicago Tribune, are suing OpenAI and Microsoft for massive copyright infringement.
  • They accuse the AI companies of using millions of copyrighted articles to train ChatGPT and other AI products without permission or payment.
  • The publishers argue that they have invested significant resources in creating the content used to train the AI systems. The unauthorized use by OpenAI and Microsoft not only constitutes theft of intellectual property, but also threatens the credibility of publishers and local journalism as a foundation of democracy through "hallucinations" and disinformation.
Sources
Online journalist Matthias is the co-founder and publisher of THE DECODER. He believes that artificial intelligence will fundamentally change the relationship between humans and computers.
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