OpenAI clashes with New York Times over copyright lawsuit

By Kuksung Nam, The Readable
Feb. 28, 2024 11:03PM GMT+9

The legal dispute between the creators of ChatGPT, OpenAI, and The New York Times has escalated. OpenAI has asked a court to dismiss portions of a lawsuit filed by the news organization, which accuses the company of copyright infringement.

On February 26, OpenAI filed a motion in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleging that the news company had “paid someone to hack” its products. This claim was made to bolster OpenAI’s argument that the accusation of training its chatbot, ChatGPT, with unauthorized news articles by the news company lacks merit.

In December of last year, The New York Times took legal action against OpenAI and Microsoft, contending that these tech giants have created generative artificial intelligence tools by utilizing millions of news articles without authorization. To support their claims, the news organization pointed out that when prompted, the latest ChatGPT model produces responses that closely mirror, often almost verbatim, substantial segments of the company’s articles.

In their complaint, the Times highlighted that the ChatGPT-4 large language models were reproducing extensive sections of an award-winning article published in 2019, word for word. The media giant detailed the extensive effort that went into creating the article, stating, “The 18-month investigation included 600 interviews, more than 100 records requests, large-scale data analysis, and the review of thousands of pages of internal bank records and other documents.” The complaint further emphasized, “OpenAI had no role in the creation of this content, yet with minimal prompting, it will recite large portions of it verbatim.”

In their court filing, the creators of ChatGPT countered by stating that replicating the results published by the news company verbatim would require tens of thousands of attempts. OpenAI argued, “The Times were able to achieve this only by targeting and exploiting a bug, which OpenAI has committed to addressing. They used deceptive prompts that clearly violate OpenAI’s terms of use.” OpenAI further explained, “And even then, they had to input portions of the very articles from which they sought to extract verbatim passages.”

Moreover, the technology company flatly denied The New York Times’ allegations, which suggested that the firm intends to “free ride” on the news organization's investments by employing their content to develop substitutive products. In its legal filing, OpenAI contended that their chatbot does not serve as an alternative to subscribing to the media organization. “In the real world, people do not use ChatGPT or any other OpenAI product for that purpose,” OpenAI asserted. “In normal usage, one cannot employ ChatGPT to systematically retrieve Times articles on demand.”

The cover image of this article was designed by Areum Hwang. This article was copyedited by Arthur Gregory Willers.

Kuksung Nam is a journalist for The Readable. She has extensively traversed the globe to cover the latest stories on the cyber threat landscape and has been producing in-depth stories on security and privacy by engaging with industry giants, foreign government officials and experts. Before joining The Readable, Kuksung reported on politics for one of South Korea’s top-five local newspapers, The Kyeongin Ilbo. Her journalistic skills and reportage earned her the coveted Journalists Association of Korea award in 2021 for her essay detailing exclusive stories about the misconduct of a former government official. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in French from Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, a testament to her linguistic capabilities.