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Microsoft and OpenAI sued by writers Nicholas Basbanes and Nicholas Gage

Written by Tue 9 Jan 2024

Image Credit: Reuters

OpenAI and investor Microsoft have been sued by two authors alleging the companies used their work to train artificial intelligence (AI) models behind ChatGPT and other AI services.

The writers and former journalists, Nicholas Basbanes and Nicholas Gage, alleged in the class action lawsuit that Microsoft and OpenAI decided upon a ‘deliberate strategy’ to steal copyrighted works to power their ‘massive commercial enterprise’.

Basbanes and Gage’s lawyer, Michael Richter, said it was ‘outrageous’ the defendants with access to billions in capital, stole the plaintiffs’ copyrighted works to build another billion-dollar commercial industry. In contrast, Richter said the plaintiffs work entirely on their resources. 

“If they find it necessary to use certain copyrighted materials in their published works, it is the authors, not their publishers, who pay for the privilege of doing so,” added Richter in the proposed class action lawsuit.

Basbanes and Gage are both pursuing damages for copyright infringement, the lost opportunity to license their works, and the destruction of the market the defendants have caused and continue to cause to writers. They also seek a permanent injunction to prevent these harms from recurring.

OpenAI and Microsoft has not commented on the matter as of writing.

Large Language Models ‘Impossible’ to Train Without Copyrighted Materials

On 5 December, OpenAI informed the House of Lords Communications and Digital Select Committee in a written evidence letter that it is unable to train large language models without access to copyrighted materials.

“Because copyright today covers virtually every sort of human expression, including blog posts, photographs, forum posts, scraps of software code, and government documents, it would be impossible to train today’s leading AI models without using copyrighted materials,” said OpenAI in the letter.

The creator of ChatGPT expressed the company’s commitment to developing more mechanisms for rightsholders to opt out of training. OpenAI said are currently collaborating with rightsholders to establish mutually beneficial arrangements for accessing otherwise inaccessible materials.

“We have already struck partnership deals with publishers like the Associated Press, and we expect our ongoing negotiations with others to yield additional partnerships soon,” added OpenAI.

Last month, The New York Times sued OpenAI and Microsoft for copyright infringement. The newspaper has accused the ChatGPT creator and its investor, Microsoft, of using its content to train generative AI.

OpenAI said the copyright lawsuit against it was ‘without merit’ in a blog post on Monday. The company said the Times manipulated prompts in ChatGPT to get it to output excerpts of Times articles.

In July, more than 15,000 authors signed an Authors Guild letter to AI company CEOs, including OpenAI and Microsoft, calling on AI industry leaders to safeguard writers. Notable signatories of the letter included Dan Brown, James Patterson, Jodi Picoult, and Margaret Atwood.

Microsoft Executive Dee Templeton Joins OpenAI Board

Microsoft Executive Dee Templeton joined OpenAI’s board as a non-voting observer, as reported by Bloomberg on Friday. Bloomberg reported the move forms part of a wider board remodel, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Templeton began her career at Microsoft 25 years ago as the first female technical employee at Microsoft New Zealand.

The news arrived months after Microsoft and OpenAI faced internal pressures after co-founder of OpenAI, Sam Altman, was fired by the company for allegedly lying to the board. Microsoft subsequently hired Altman to lead a new AI research team with former OpenAI President, Greg Brockman. 

Almost all of the OpenAI workforce issued a collective ultimatum to OpenAI, stating that they would resign if the board did not resign and re-hire Altman. Altman agreed to return as CEO of OpenAI after this internal pressure from OpenAI investors and staff.

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Written by Tue 9 Jan 2024

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