The New York Times sued Microsoft and Open AI.

The New York Times is a daily newspaper based in New York City, with a worldwide reported readership of 9.41 million digital-only subscribers and 670,000 print subscribers as of 2023. The newspaper was founded in 1851 as the New-York Daily Times. 

The New York Times Company, which is publicly traded, has been governed by the Sulzberger family since 1896, through a dual-class share structure. A. G. Sulzberger, the paper’s publisher and the company’s chairman, is the fifth generation of the family to head the paper.

The Ochs-Sulzberger family, one of the United States’ newspaper dynasties, has owned The New York Times ever since. The publisher went public on January 14, 1969, trading at $42 a share on the American Stock Exchange.

US news organisation the New York Times is suing ChatGPT-owner OpenAI over claims its copyright was infringed to train the system.

According to the lawsuit, this means readers can get New York Times content without paying for it – meaning it is losing out on subscription revenue as well as advertising clicks from people visiting the website.

Millions of articles from The New York Times were used to train chatbots that now compete with it, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit, filed on Wednesday in a Manhattan federal court, reveals the New York Times unsuccessfully approached Microsoft and OpenAI in April to seek “an amicable resolution” over its copyright.

In September a similar copyright infringement case was brought by a group of US authors including Game of Thrones novelist George RR Martin and John Grisham.

The Times claims that because the AI tools have been trained on its content, they can “generate output that recites Times content verbatim, closely summarizes it, and mimics its expressive style, as demonstrated by scores of examples … These tools also wrongly attribute false information to The Times,” the complaint states.

The Times lawsuit could ultimately set a precedent for the wider industry, because the question of whether using copyrighted material to train AI models violates the law is an unsettled legal matter, according to Dina Blikshteyn, partner in the artificial intelligence and deep learning practice group at law firm Haynes Boone.

In its complaint, The Times said it approached Microsoft and OpenAI in April to raise concerns about the use of its intellectual property and explore “an amicable resolution,” possibly involving a commercial agreement and “technological guardrails” around generative A.I. products. But it said the talks had not produced a resolution.

The lawsuit could test the emerging legal contours of generative A.I. technologies — so called for the text, images and other content they can create after learning from large data sets — and could carry major implications for the news industry. The Times is among a small number of outlets that have built successful business models from online journalism, but dozens of newspapers and magazines have been hobbled by readers’ migration to the internet.

At the same time, OpenAI and other A.I. tech firms — which use a wide variety of online texts, from newspaper articles to poems to screenplays, to train chatbots — are attracting billions of dollars in funding.

OpenAI is now valued by investors at more than $80 billion. Microsoft has committed $13 billion to OpenAI and has incorporated the company’s technology into its Bing search engine.

“Defendants seek to free-ride on The Times’s massive investment in its journalism,” the complaint says, accusing OpenAI and Microsoft of “using The Times’s content without payment to create products that substitute for The Times and steal audiences away from it.”

“A Supreme Court decision is essentially inevitable,” Richard Tofel, a former president of the nonprofit newsroom ProPublica and a consultant to the news business, said of the latest flurry of lawsuits. “Some of the publishers will settle for some period of time — including still possibly The Times — but enough publishers won’t that this novel and crucial issue of copyright law will need to be resolved.”

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