Why Is The New York Times Suing OpenAI? The Facts

The New York Times OpenAI

It’s happening. A company of journalists is squaring off against the tech giants. The AI war has begun.

As of December 2023, The New York Times is suing OpenAI, the creators of the AI chatbot ChatGPT. They are also suing Microsoft, a company that uses OpenAI’s ChatGPT to power its search engine Bing. 

But why are they doing this? Here are the answers we know.

The New York Times Versus OpenAI

Products like ChatGPT don’t generate answers from nothing. In order to produce text, they have to be fed works that have been written by humans. 

The New York Times is alleging that OpenAI fed ChatGPT tonnes of The New York Times articles. They believe that ChatGPT is now producing answers that infringe on their intellectual property. 

Additionally, The New York Times has claimed that ChatGPT has also straight-up published paragraphs of their work. The New York Times alleged that they haven’t been compensated for this work.

New York Times court filing
The New York Times

In a court filing, that was logged in the southern district of New York, The New York Times detailed why they’re suing OpenAI.

“Independent journalism is vital to our democracy,” The New York Times wrote. “It is also increasingly rare and valuable. For more than 170 years, The Times has given the world deeply reported, expert,  independent journalism. Times journalists go where the story is, often at great risk and cost, to inform the public about important and pressing issues.”

This filing goes on to claim that OpenAI and Microsoft’s “unlawful use of The Times’ work” is dangerous and “threatens The Times’ ability to provide that service.”

The New York Times then stated, “Defendants’ generative artificial intelligence tools rely on large-language models that were built by copying and using millions of The Times’ copyrighted news articles, in-depth investigations, opinion pieces, reviews, how-to guides, and more. While Defendants engaged in wide-scale copying from many sources, they gave Times content particular emphasis when building their LLMs, revealing a preference that recognizes the value of those works.”

In this filing, The New York Times provides numerous examples of OpenAI allegedly stealing its work, The first one being a New York Times article about taxes next to a ChatGPT answer about taxes. When you compare these two texts, less than forty words are different. The rest of the text is the same.

New York Times court filing
The New York Times

OpenAI’s Response

On December 28, OpenAI released a statement regarding The New York Times lawsuit. 

“We respect the rights of content creators and owners,” OpenAI stated. “Our ongoing conversations with The New York Times have been productive and moving forward constructively, so we are surprised and disappointed with this development.”

As it stands, Microsoft hasn’t publicly commented on what’s taken place.

Why This New York Times Filing Matters

If The New York Times’ filing goes to court, the results could shape journalistic reporting and AI regulations across the globe. A legal standard might be cemented, one that would be locked in for years.

If The New York Times wins, what will happen to OpenAI? Will they have to rebuild ChatGPT from the ground up? And if OpenAI wins, what will happen to The New York Times? Can their business survive an AI revolution?

So much is up in the air. The stakes of this war can’t be higher.

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