The New York Times is reportedly preparing to sue OpenAI for up to $150,000 per infringing content. The potential lawsuit started the heated debate over the critical issue of copyright and intellectual property and changing the nature of AI.

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As August began, The NYT updated its terms of service (TOS) to prohibit scraping its articles and images for AI training. The new regulations forbid using text, photographs, images, illustrations, designs, audio clips, video clips, and metadata for being trained by LLMs or AI systems without The NYT’s written permission. Weeks after the update of TOS, the Times’ lawyers were reported to be pondering over the necessity of the lawsuit and whether it can protect intellectual property rights. If the NYT decides to sue OpenAI, the lawsuit could become the most high-profile battle over copyright protection in the AI era. This speculation arises a month after Sarah Silverman and other authors sued OpenAI over copyright concerns.

People on the OpenForum voice their opinions: 

“Journalism is a high-effort, high-value skill, and one which LLMs are entirely incapable of doing. LLMs cannot fact check, LLMs cannot investigate, LLMs cannot be trusted to be correct about literally anything because every single output is effectively an RNG dice roll. And none of this will matter to higher-ups at publications who decide to replace writers with ‘stick a few bullet points about an event into an LLM, have it write an article, and post the result, all for a fraction of the cost of paying a journalist to do it’.”

“Fair use is one of the limitations to copyright intended to balance the interests of copyright holders with the public interest.”

The NYT’s primary concern is ChatGPT acting as a rival, generating content based on the Times’ original reporting. This anxiety intensifies with tech giants like Microsoft incorporating AI into their search engines. If users receive comprehensive AI-generated answers from a search, visits to the original publisher could decline.

OpenAI’s ChatGPT relies on vast internet data, often sourced without explicit permission. The legality of such extensive data collection remains undetermined. If found guilty of copyright breaches, OpenAI could face severe consequences. Federal laws might mandate the destruction of infringed content from their datasets. Daniel Gervais, an intellectual property expert, noted that companies replicating numerous works could face potentially company-ending fines:

“If you’re copying millions of works, you can see how that becomes a number that becomes potentially fatal for a company.”

Amidst this backdrop, OpenAI is vulnerable to lawsuits. Recent reports indicate potential orders for OpenAI to overhaul ChatGPT’s dataset if the Times can prove copyright infringement. Such legal victories could also encourage other rights holders to come forward with similar claims.

A collective push for standardized AI use in newsrooms and stricter negotiations for content usage is evident.


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