ChatGPT is still the fastest-growing consumer technology product of all time, but it achieved that in large part by crawling the internet and training itself on the backs of every website it could get its hands on. Is that okay? The New York Times thinks not.
Today, the publication announced that it is suing OpenAI and Microsoft for using its articles to train large language models like GPT-4, which currently power products like ChatGPT. According to the lawsuit, the New York Times claims that the company used “millions” of its articles to “train automated chatbots that now compete with the news outlet as a source of reliable information.”
The lawsuit demands that the companies “destroy any chatbot models and training data that use copyrighted material from The Times.” I doubt that will happen — removing their content from web crawlers is more likely.
The suit does not include an exact monetary demand. But it says the defendants should be held responsible for “billions of dollars in statutory and actual damages” related to the “unlawful copying and use of The Times’s uniquely valuable works.” It also calls for the companies to destroy any chatbot models and training data that use copyrighted material from The Times.
The lawsuit could test the emerging legal contours of generative A.I. technologies — so called for the text, images and other content they can create after learning from large data sets — and could carry major implications for the news industry. The Times is among a small number of outlets that have built successful business models from online journalism, but dozens of newspapers and magazines have been hobbled by readers’ migration to the internet.
In fact, the outlet has already blocked OpenAI’s web crawlers from using its website to train its models, joining other publications that are also doing so. Other publications like Business Insider have actually signed deals with OpenAI, where the artificial intelligence technology company pays to use the publication’s data.
The lawsuit comes a month after Sam Altman was fired as OpenAI’s CEO and, in one of the strangest corporate shakeups of all time, returned as CEO just days later. Two weeks ago, we also started to get our first sense of what its latest language model, GPT 4.5, might look like.