Sam Altman Surprised At NYT Lawsuit

OpenAI’s CEO Sam Altman has waded into the lawsuit filed against Microsoft and OpenAI, the creator of the popular AI chatbot ChatGPT.

Speaking on stage at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Thursday, CNBC reported that Sam Altman said he was “surprised” by The New York Times’ lawsuit, and said OpenAI’s artificial intelligence models didn’t need to train on the publisher’s data.

It comes after New York Times (NYT) had sued both OpenAI and Microsoft in late December, alleging copyright infringement of its news content.

NYT lawsuit

The lawsuit, filed in the federal district court in Manhattan, alleged that millions of NYT articles were used to train chatbots that now compete with the news organisation.

The NYT lawsuit did not include an exact monetary demand, but said it was seeking a lot of money as compensation.

The lawsuit states that the defendants should be held responsible for “billions of dollars in statutory and actual damages” related to the “unlawful copying and use of The Times’s uniquely valuable works.”

The lawsuit also called for the companies to destroy any chatbot models and training data that use copyrighted material from The New York Times.

The NYT lawsuit cited several instances in which OpenAI and Microsoft chatbots gave users near-verbatim excerpts of its articles.

An OpenAI spokeswoman, Lindsey Held, was quoted as saying at the time that OpenAI had been “moving forward constructively” in conversations with The Times and that it was “surprised and disappointed” by the lawsuit.

Surprised Altman

This sentiment was echoed by Sam Altman at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week.

Describing the legal action as a “strange thing,” Altman said OpenAI had been in “productive negotiations” with the Times before news of the lawsuit came out. According to Altman, OpenAI wanted to pay the outlet “a lot of money to display their content” in ChatGPT.

“We were as surprised as anybody else to read that they were suing us in The New York Times. That was sort of a strange thing,” the OpenAI leader reportedly said on Thursday.

Altman added that he isn’t that worried by the Times’ lawsuit, and that a resolution with the publisher isn’t a top priority for OpenAI.

“We are open to training [AI] on The New York Times, but it’s not our priority,” Altman said in front of a packed Davos crowd.

“We actually don’t need to train on their data,” he added. “I think this is something that people don’t understand. Any one particular training source, it doesn’t move the needle for us that much.”

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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