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ChatGPT: New York Times sues OpenAI over article usage

December 27, 2023

The lawsuit said ChatGPT-4 and Microsoft's Copilot had reproduced verbatim excerpts from New York Times articles without permission. The paper seeks to hold the two companies accountable for damages.

A phone showing the OpenAI logo held in front of a computer screen with ChatGPT open
OpenAI attracted billions in investment after it launched ChatGPTImage: Michael Dwyer/AP/picture alliance

The New York Times sued OpenAI and Microsoft on Wednesday, alleging that the tech giants used millions of articles without permission to train the artificial intelligence models that power tools such as ChatGPT.

The lawsuit said the two companies "seek to free-ride on The Times' massive investment in its journalism by using it to build substitutive products without permission or payment."

Microsoft has a partnership with OpenAI that allows it to capitalize on the AI technology made by the smaller company. It is also OpenAI's biggest financial backer

While no sum is specifically requested from OpenAI and Microsoft, the New York Times said it "seeks to hold them responsible for the billions of dollars in statutory and actual damages that they owe for the unlawful copying and use of The Times's uniquely valuable works."

Why chatbots sometimes lie

The lawsuit also requests the destruction of ChatGPT and other large language models that were trained on New York Times articles.

What did the lawsuit say about ChatGPT?

Artificial intelligence (AI) companies scrape readily available text online — including news articles — to train generative AI chatbots. With the AI technology booming, these companies have attracted billions in investments in recent years.

The lawsuit said that OpenAI's ChatGPT-4 presented large portions of New York Times articles, including a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation into New York City's taxi industry that took 18 months to complete.

It also said ChatGPT-4 had falsely attributed product recommendation to the New York Times' reviews website Wirecutter, thereby endangering its reputation.

In another example, the lawsuit said Microsoft's Copilot (formerly Bing Chat) had given responses that included verbatim excerpts of New York Times articles.

The New York Times joins a growing list of companies and individuals taking legal action to stop OpenAI from using copyrighted material to train ChatGPT.

However, its tactic differs from other major media companies like the AP news agency or Germany's Axel Springer, which have instead entered content deals with OpenAI.

zc/dj (AFP, AP)