Microsoft and AI pioneer OpenAI have been hit by another lawsuit from newspaper publishers alleging copyright infringement.

The Associated Press reported that eight newspaper publishers in California, Colorado, Illinois, Florida, Minnesota and New York have alleged that Microsoft and OpenAI used millions of their articles without payment or permission to develop artificial intelligence models for ChatGPT and other AI products.

It has been a busy week so far for the ChatGPT owner. Privacy rights group Noyb recently filed a formal complaint to the Austrian data regulator that alleged that OpenAI should be held accountable under European Union data protection regulations for false information repeatedly supplied on individuals by ChatGPT.

Newspaper lawsuit

Now OpenAI, and one its main financial backers Microsoft, are facing a copyright infringement lawsuit that was filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York.

The complaint shows that lawsuit stems from a group of eight newspaper publishers, namely: Daily News (the New York Daily News); Chicago Tribune Company (the Chicago Tribune); Orlando Sentinel Communications Company (Orlando Sentinel); Sun-Sentinel Company (Sun-Sentinel); San Jose Mercury-News (Mercury News); DP Media Network (Denver Post); ORB Publishing (Orange County Register); and Northwest Publications (Pioneer Press).

All of the newspapers are reportedly owned by the hedge fund, Alden Global Capital.

“This lawsuit arises from Defendants purloining millions of the Publishers’ generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) products, including ChatGPT and Copilot,” the lawsuit alleges. “Although OpenAI purported at one time to be a non-profit organisation, its recent $90 billion valuation underscores how that is no longer the case. ChatGPT, along with Microsoft Copilot (formerly known as Bing Chat) has also added hundreds of billions of dollars to Microsoft’s market value.”

“Defendants have created those GenAI products in violation of the law by using important journalism created by the Publishers’ newspapers without any compensation,” the lawsuit alleges.

“We’ve spent billions of dollars gathering information and reporting news at our publications, and we can’t allow OpenAI and Microsoft to expand the Big Tech playbook of stealing our work to build their own businesses at our expense,” Frank Pine, executive editor for the MediaNews Group and Tribune Publishing reportedly said in a statement to AP.

Microsoft declined to comment Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.

“We take great care in our products and design process to support news organisations,” an OpenAI spokesperson said in a statement.

“While we were not previously aware of Alden Global Capital’s concerns, we are actively engaged in constructive partnerships and conversations with many news organisations around the world to explore opportunities, discuss any concerns, and provide solutions.”

“Along with our news partners, we see immense potential for AI tools like ChatGPT to deepen publishers’ relationships with readers and enhance the news experience,” the OpenAI spokesperson said.

Other lawsuits

This is not the first time that Microsoft or OpenAI have faced copyright infringement lawsuits from newspaper publishers.

In December 2023 The New York Times became the first major US media organisation to sue OpenAI (and its main investor Microsoft).

Shortly after that NYT lawsuit, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman expressed his surprise, saying OpenAI’s artificial intelligence models didn’t need to train on the publisher’s data.

Then in February three US online news outlets sued OpenAI, alleging the AI pioneer used thousands of their articles to train its chatbots.

That complaint stemmed from The Intercept (an online American non-profit news organisation); Raw Story (an American progressive news website); and AlterNet (a left leaning news website in the US).

It should be noted that OpenAI does have agreements with some newspaper publishers.

In July 2023, the Associated Press struck a licensing deal with OpenAI, and then German publishing giant Axel Springer also reached an agreement for an undisclosed amount.

In recent months, OpenAI has also signed deals the Financial Times, enabling it to draw on the publishers’ content to improve AI models.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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