Microsoft and OpenAI face another lawsuit for copyright infringement by their AI models

AI, and OpenAI in particular, is once in legal crosshairs from the creative industry. Microsoft and OpenAI are now confronted with a class-action lawsuit filed by nonfiction authors Nicholas Basbanes and Nicholas Gage. The crux of the matter revolves around the authors’ claim that their copyrighted works were improperly utilized in the development of a billion-dollar artificial intelligence (AI) system. This legal action follows a recent lawsuit initiated by The New York Times against the same defendants.

The lawsuit, lodged in a Manhattan federal court, asserts that Microsoft and OpenAI engaged in copyright infringement by incorporating the authors’ works into their AI models without proper authorization. Basbanes and Gage contend that their literary content was essentially “stolen” to facilitate the training of large language models and ChatGPT, the AI-powered chatbot that has become a household name. The legal landscape gained momentum following The New York Times’ lawsuit against Microsoft and OpenAI, alleging the unauthorized use of its content for training language models. The subsequent acknowledgment by the defendants that copyright owners should be compensated for their work laid the groundwork for Basbanes and Gage to pursue their class-action lawsuit.

Nicholas Basbanes and Nicholas Gage seek to represent a broader class of writers in the US who, they argue, have witnessed their works systematically incorporated into Microsoft’s and OpenAI’s large language models. The potential class, estimated to include tens of thousands of individuals, underscores the pervasive nature of the issue. The lawsuit aims for damages of up to $150,000 for each infringed work, according to media reports. This legal action follows a prior lawsuit by a group of prominent fiction writers against OpenAI, including George R.R. Martin and Jonathan Franzen, illustrating a growing discontent among authors regarding the use of their works in AI training. The specific focus of the current suit on nonfiction authors highlights the diverse voices seeking recognition and compensation for their contributions.

Mike Richter, the attorney representing Basbanes and Gage, voiced concerns over what he perceives as the undervaluation of writers’ work by tech companies. Drawing a parallel between the situation and a homeowner refusing to pay for essential materials behind the walls of a house because they are not visible, Richter underscores the significance of acknowledging and compensating creators for their intellectual property. This lawsuit injects momentum into the broader debate about the ethical and legal considerations surrounding the use of copyrighted material in AI development. For now, neither Microsoft nor OpenAI have released any official statements regarding the lawsuit.

As the legal proceedings unfold, this case carries broader implications for the tech industry’s approach to intellectual property rights. The clash between technological advancement and content creators’ rights prompts critical questions about the responsibility of tech companies to fairly compensate those whose works contribute to the development of lucrative AI systems. Microsoft and OpenAI, as influential entities in the tech industry, are likely to face heightened scrutiny over their practices related to intellectual property. The outcome of these lawsuits will undeniably shape future discussions and potentially influence policies regarding the use of copyrighted material in AI training.


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