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Auhor’s Rights Lawsuits Against OpenAI Are Increasing

As the release of Chat GPT version 5 approaches, legal demands against the company led by Sam Altman are increasing. The conglomerate The New York Times, along with eight other American media outlets, filed a lawsuit in Manhattan courts against OpenAI, arguing that "millions of articles published by these newspapers were used to train automatic chatbots that now compete with media outlets."

This adds to the lawsuit filed by actress Scarlett Johansson, who claims her voice was used without her consent, and by the writers of the series Game of Thrones against the company. In September 2023, they complained in court that their texts were used, violating author’s rights laws.

The eight American media outlets that sued OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT, and Microsoft, accuse these tech companies of having "stolen millions" of protected journalistic articles without authorization and without payment, to train their artificial intelligence chatbots.

The plaintiffs include The New York Times, the New York Daily News, the Chicago Tribune, and the Denver Post, who filed the lawsuit in a federal court in Manhattan.

Fair Use and Licenses

"We have spent billions of dollars gathering information and communicating news in our publications, and we cannot allow OpenAI and Microsoft to expand the playbook of big tech companies to steal our work and grow their own business at our expense," said Frank Pine, CEO of MediaNews Group and Tribune Publishing, in a written statement.

Microsoft declined to comment while OpenAI issued a statement assuring that it takes care to support news organizations. Both companies also face another set of lawsuits in a federal court in San Francisco.

Tech companies have argued that taking large amounts of publicly accessible internet content to train their AI systems is protected by the "fair use" doctrine of U.S. author’s rights law.

The Controversy with Scarlett Johansson

At the beginning of May, OpenAI unveiled a new conversational interface for ChatGPT with an expressive synthetic voice that was surprisingly similar to the AI assistant voiced by Scarlett Johansson in the science fiction movie Her. However, it was suddenly deactivated a few days later.

The day after the deactivation, Johansson issued a statement claiming she had forced OpenAI to desist after her lawyers demanded the company clarify how the new voice was created.

According to Johansson's statement, OpenAI's CEO Sam Altman asked her in September 2023 to provide the new voice for ChatGPT, but she refused. The surprising thing for the actress was when the company demonstrated a new voice for ChatGPT that, in her view, sounded like hers.

Game of Thrones and Internal Crises

The conflict with media conglomerates and Scarlett Johansson adds to OpenAI's existing battles with artists, writers, and other creatives. The company is already defending a series of lawsuits alleging it improperly used protected content to train its algorithms.

American writers and screenwriters George R.R. Martin and John Grisham sued the company behind the ChatGPT AI software, arguing that "it violated their author’s rights to train the system." Martin is famous for his series A Song of Ice and Fire, which was later adapted for television under the name Game of Thrones.

As lawsuits multiply, the company's chief scientist Ilya Sutskever and Jan Leike, who were in charge of leading a team dedicated to AI safety at OpenAI, resigned in mid-May.

Both resignations raised alarms and generated concern regarding OpenAI's commitment to ensuring that AI does not destroy the world.

The lawsuits filed against OpenAI and Microsoft reflect a growing conflict between tech companies and content creators over the use of protected material to train artificial intelligence models.

As technology advances and becomes more ubiquitous, these legal disputes are likely to intensify, defining the future of author’s rights in the digital age.


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