PYMNTS MonitorEdge May 2024

OpenAI, Microsoft Face Copyright Lawsuit by Mother Jones Publisher CIR

The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR), the nonprofit news organization that produces Mother Jones and Reveal, has sued OpenAI and that firm’s largest shareholder, Microsoft.

CIR’s lawsuit alleges that the companies committed copyright violations, the nonprofit said in a Thursday (June 27) press release.

“OpenAI and Microsoft started vacuuming up our stories to make their product more valuable, but they never asked for permission or offered compensation, unlike other organizations that license our material,” Monika Bauerlein, CEO of CIR, said in the release. “This free rider behavior is not only unfair, it is a violation of copyright.”

Reached by PYMNTS, an OpenAI spokesperson provided an emailed statement saying that the company is working collaboratively with the news industry.

“We are working collaboratively with the news industry and partnering with global news publishers to display their content in our products like ChatGPT, including summaries, quotes, and attribution, to drive traffic back to the original articles,” the statement said. “A component of the partnerships is the ability to leverage publisher content using various machine learning and training techniques to help us optimize the display of that content and make it more useful to users.”

Microsoft did not immediately reply to PYMNTS’ request for comment.

CIR said in the release that it has registered its copyright for nearly 50 years, that artificial intelligence (AI) products become more valuable when they access more content, and that AI’s summaries of articles threaten publishers.

The organization’s lawsuit alleges OpenAI violated the Copyright Act and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, according to the release.

“For-profit corporations like OpenAI and Microsoft can’t simply treat the work of nonprofit and independent publishers as free raw material for their products,” Bauerlein said in the release. “If this practice isn’t stopped, the public’s access to truthful information will be limited to AI-generated summaries of a disappearing news landscape.”

This news comes about six months after The New York Times sued OpenAI and Microsoft, alleging copyright infringement and claiming the tech companies used its content without permission to develop their AI products.

Reached by PYMNTS in December 2023 when the lawsuit was filed, an OpenAI spokesperson said the firm respects the rights of content creators and owners and is “committed to working with them to ensure they benefit from AI technology and new revenue models.”

In April, eight newspapers owned by Alden Global Capital’s MediaNews Group sued OpenAI and Microsoft, alleging that the tech companies used the newspapers’ content to train AI models. The newspapers in that case include the New York Daily News and the Chicago Tribune.

CIR’s lawsuit also comes on the same day that OpenAI and Time announced a multiyear content partnership that will give OpenAI access to Time’s current and past content and allow the tech firm to cite the publication as a source of information in response to user queries on ChatGPT.

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