Authors sue ChatGPT-maker OpenAI for copyright infringement

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George RR Martin

A group of 17 authors, including John Grisham and George R.R. Martin, filed a lawsuit against OpenAI, accusing the organization of engaging in “systematic theft on a mass scale.” This legal action is part of a broader trend where writers are concerned that artificial intelligence programmes are using their copyrighted works without permission.

In documents submitted to a federal court in New York on Tuesday, the authors claim that OpenAI has committed “flagrant and harmful infringements of plaintiffs’ registered copyrights.” They characterize the ChatGPT programme as a “massive commercial enterprise” that relies on widespread theft.

The Authors Guild, America’s oldest and largest professional organization for writers and provides advocacy on issues of free expression and copyright protection, is coordinating this lawsuit, which also includes authors like David Baldacci, Sylvia Day, Jonathan Franzen, and Elin Hilderbrand. They stressed the importance of halting this alleged theft, stating that it could jeopardize the rich literary culture that supports various creative industries in the United States. She believes that authors should have control over how their works are used by generative AI to preserve literature.

The lawsuit provides specific examples of ChatGPT searches for each author. For instance, it alleges that the programme generated an “infringing, unauthorized, and detailed outline for a prequel” to George R.R. Martin’s “A Game of Thrones” titled “A Dawn of Direwolves,” using characters from Martin’s existing series “A Song of Ice and Fire.”

OpenAI responded with a statement, expressing respect for the rights of writers and authors and their belief in ensuring they benefit from AI technology. They mentioned ongoing constructive discussions with creators, including the Authors Guild, to address their concerns and collaborate in mutually beneficial ways to use new technology in content creation.

This lawsuit follows similar legal actions in San Francisco earlier this month. OpenAI has also sought to dismiss two related lawsuits in California, highlighting that copyright law needs to consider the limitations and exceptions, such as fair use, that allow for innovation in AI, especially with large language models. These objections from authors have prompted changes in Amazon’s policies regarding e-books, with Amazon requiring writers to notify the company in advance if their work includes AI-generated content and imposing limits on the number of self-published AI texts through its Kindle Direct Publishing programme.

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